OSHA Fines Ashley Furniture $1.7 Million For Workplace Safety Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined Ashley Furniture, one of the world’s largest furniture manufacturers, $1.7 million dollars for dozens of workplace safety violations at their manufacturing facility in Arcadia, Wisconsin.
OSHA began investigating Ashley Furniture’s Arcadia location in the summer of 2014 after a worker lost three fingers while operating a woodworking machine that did not have the necessary safety mechanisms in place. In the past three and a half years, 4,500 workers at Ashley’s Arcadia location suffered more than 1,000 injuries on the job. Of the reported injuries, over 100 of them were caused by machinery similar to the one used by the worker who lost three fingers. OSHA’s investigators found what they called, “12 willful, 12 repeated, and 14 serious safety violations.” OSHA considers a safety hazard “serious” if the hazard can lead to death or serious physical harm. A willful violation is something done intentionally with disregard to the law and worker safety.
Many of the 12 willful and 12 repeated violations are among some of the violations most commonly cited by OSHA and included failing to prevent machinery from starting unintentionally during maintenance and failing to provide adequate safety mechanisms to prevent workers from coming in contact with moving parts on machinery. The 14 serious violations included things such as electrical safety violations, failing to properly train workers on safety procedures, machinery without easily accessible emergency stop buttons, and inadequate drenching facilities for workers who are exposed to corrosive substances.
OSHA has placed Ashley Furniture in their Severe Violator Enforcement Program. U.S, Labor Department Assistant Secretary David Michaels told the Star Tribune, “We rarely issue a fine that is more than $1 million. Having 1,000 work injuries in three years is proof positive that safety in this plant needs tremendous improvement.” Of the findings, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said, “Ashley Furniture has created a culture that values production and profit over worker safety and employees are paying the price. Safety and profits are not an ‘either, or’ proposition. Successful companies across the country have both.”
Ashley Furniture strongly denies OSHA’s findings. Steve Ziegeweid, Director of Health and Safety at Ashley Furniture, issued a statement saying Ashley’s accident rate has dropped 14% and the number of days employees spend away, restricted, or transferred has gone down 28% over the past five years. Ashley Furniture will have 15 days to respond to officially respond to OSHA’s claims.
Prior to their most recent inspection, Ashley Furniture has been the subject of 33 OSHA inspections since 1982 and has previously been issued 96 serious violations, 38 other violations, and 4 repeat violations. Earlier in 2014, Ashley’s Arcadia location was cited after a worker had one of their fingers partially amputated while working on a machine. OSHA’s complete report of violations found at Ashley Furniture’s Arcadia, Wisconsin is available on their website.