OSHA Fines WI Furniture Maker $1.76 Million

Arcadia, WI – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied a historic $1.766 million dollar fine this week against Ashley Furniture Industries, based in Wisconsin. Investigators documented numerous and repeated serious violations at the facility, landing Ashley Furniture on OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program list for “employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.”

The plant employs 4,500 and in the past 3 years has seen over 1,000 worker injuries. Workers were not adequately protected against moving machinery, most of it woodworking machinery. Lack of training and accidents with tools, blades, and saws have resulted in multiple amputations. The OSHA report and $1.76 million dollar penalty allege that Ashley Furniture “failed to safeguard against woodworking machines unintentionally starting when workers were making tool and blade changes,” which is also known as lockout tagout or control of hazardous energy.

Additional citations were issued for “not training workers on safety procedures and hazards present when servicing machinery; lacking adequate drenching facilities for workers exposed to corrosive materials; electrical safety violations; and not equipping all machines with easily-accessible emergency stop buttons.” OSHA categorizes these violations as serious since physical harm resulted from a hazard they estimate that the “employer knew or should have known [to] exist.”

“We rarely issue a fine that is more than $1 million,” commented U.S. Labor Department Assistant Secretary David Michaels. “Having 1,000 work injuries in three years is proof positive that safety in this plant needs tremendous ­improvement.” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez stated: “Safety and profits are not an ‘either, or’ proposition. Successful companies across this nation have both.” For its part, Ashley Furniture denies the findings, stressing that they are allegations only.

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