In a three-and-a-half year period, 4,500 employees at Ashley Furniture Industries Inc., in Arcadia, Wisconsin experienced more than 1,000 work-related injuries. One employee lost three fingers in July 2014 while operating a woodworking machine without required safety mechanisms in place. Of the injuries recorded, more than 100 were caused by similar machinery. Ashley Furniture is the largest furniture retailer in the US.
After the incident, the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an inspection of the facility. Investigators identified 12 willful, 12 repeated and 14 serious safety violations at Ashley Furniture's Arcadia location, carrying a total of $1,766,000 in penalties. The company has also been placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program for failure to address these safety hazards. OSHA had previously cited the Arcadia facility in 2014 after an employee suffered a partial finger amputation.
The 12 willful and twelve 12 repeated violations were cited after OSHA found that the company did not take the necessary steps to protect its employees from being injured from moving machine parts. According to OSHA, it did not prevent machines from unintentionally starting when workers were performing tooling and blade changes on woodworking machinery, and also failed to provide adequate safety mechanisms to prevent contact with those moving parts. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health. OSHA issues repeated violations if an employer previously was cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federally enforcement states within the last five years.
OSHA also cited Ashley Furniture Industries for 14 serious violations, including failure to train employees on safety procedures and hazards present when servicing machinery. It said that the company also lacked adequate drenching facilities for workers exposed to corrosive materials, it committed three electrical safety violations, and it did not equip some of its machines with readily-accessible emergency stop buttons.
Under OSHA’s “General Duty Clause”, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information about OSHA, visit http://www.osha.gov.
[Note: North Carolina is one of 22 states that have an OSHA plan approved by the USDOL (United States Department of Labor). North Carolina’ plan received such approval in 1976. It is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the NCDOL.]