Ashley Furniture has agreed to pay $1.75 million in fines and open its safety program to federal scrutiny in a corporate-wide settlement agreement with OSHA. The company’s problems started when a worker lost three fingers while operating a machine without a proper guard.
The nation’s largest home furnishing retailer has agreed to correct all cited violations, pay the reduced (from $2.28 million) fine and implement a number of safety measures. Ashley Furniture will:
- hire a Vice President for Safety responsible for managing a corporate-wide program to identify and evaluate prevention and control of machine hazards, particularly those that lead to amputations
- involve employees in the implementation of the machine safety program
- submit status reports to OSHA annually during the two-year term of the agreement
- conduct periodic audits of facilities to identify machine hazards, and
- review the effectiveness of the machine hazard program annually.
The agreement resolves all pending OSHA citations at Ashley’s plants in Arcadia and Whitehall, WI, and Ecru and Ripley, MS.
OSHA issued the bulk of the original fines ($1,766,000) following an inspection at the Arcadia plant in July 2014. The inspection was prompted after a worker lost three fingers while operating a woodworking machine without required safety mechanisms.
The plant, which employs 4,500 workers, recorded more than 1,000 work-related injuries in a three-and-a-half year period.
Most of the citations were for machine guarding and hazardous energy (lockout/tagout) violations. OSHA upped the number of violations by citing Ashley machine-by-machine in some cases.
The total fine ballooned because 12 violations were categorized as willful and another dozen were labeled repeat. OSHA issued the maximum $70,000 fine for each of those 24 violations.
Ashley Furniture was also placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program which mandates follow-up inspections.
When these violations were first issued, OSHA administrator David Michaels noted Ashley disregarded its own corporate safety manuals to encourage workers to increase productivity and meet deadlines.