Personal Injury

OSHA hits Ashley Furniture with $1.76 million fine for worker injuries

OSHA logo OSHA hits Ashley Furniture with $1.76 million fine for worker injuriesFederal safety regulators have fined Wisconsin-based Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. $1.76 million after an inspection of its Arcadia, Wis., plant found more than 1,000 worker injuries occurred in the past 36 months.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said its investigation of the Ashley Furniture plant was triggered by an incident in July 2014 when a woodworking machine that lacked the required safety mechanisms amputated three fingers from the worker using the machine. A further probe into the incident found that more than 100 other injuries occurred on similar machinery.

OSHA investigators identified 12 willful violations, 12 repeated violations, and 14 serious safety violations at the Arcadia plant. The company’s failure to address and correct violations for which it had been previously cited caused it to be placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, OSHA said.

“Ashley Furniture has created a culture that values production and profit over worker safety, and employees are paying the price,” said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. “Safety and profits are not an ‘either, or’ proposition. Successful companies across this nation have both.”

Assistant OSHA secretary Dr. David Michaels said Ashley disregarded OSHA regulations and its own safety policies in a push to increase productivity and meet deadlines.

“The company apparently blamed the victims for their own injuries, but there is clear evidence that injuries were caused by the unsafe conditions created by the company,” Dr. Michaels said, adding that Ashley Furniture has displayed a “total disregard” of worker safety.

Violations OSHA inspectors found in Ashley Furniture’s Arcadia plant included failure to prevent machines from starting unintentionally when workers were performing blade changes and other procedures, inadequate worker training on safety procedures, electrocution hazards, lack of readily accessible emergency stop mechanisms on equipment, and other dangers.

Forbes lists Ashley Furniture, a furniture manufacturer with worldwide distribution, as the 117th largest private company in the U.S. The company employs some 20,000 workers at 30 locations nationally and its annual sales revenue is nearly $4 billion.

Source: U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration