The U.S. government's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today proposed another $431,000 in fines for Ashley Furniture, saying the Wisconsin company failed to protect workers from moving machine parts at its Whitehall upholstery factory. This penalty is in addition to more than $1.8 million in fines issued earlier this year during inspections at other Ashley plants in Wisconsin.
The proposed fines come as a result of an April 2015 inspection initiated under OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Company headquarters in Arcadia received similar citations in January 2015 and July 2015.
“Workers risked amputation injuries each time they serviced the machinery,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire. “Ashley Furniture failed to implement required safety procedures to protect machine operators until after OSHA opened its inspection. The company must make immediate, enforceable safety improvements at its facilities nationwide.”
OSHA says the company failed to implement procedures that would prevent machines from unintentional start-up when operators changed blades, cleaned machines and cleared jams. According to an OSHA press release, Ashley failed to have operators use locking devices to prevent unexpected machine movement, a procedure known as lockout/tagout.
Ashley Furniture has contested all citations issued. A hearing before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission will be scheduled. The company issued a statement Monday saying, in part:
"OSHA’s announcement is not a finding of fact, but its assertions of alleged violations stem from inspections at the plant on April 20 – 24, 2015. The agency’s own documents appear to confirm that inspectors did not actually see many of the alleged violations in Whitehall – but merely may have based their allegations on assumptions.
“Each employee’s safety and well-being is an absolute priority at Ashley,” said Phil Kinney, Ashley Vice President of Health and Safety. “We strongly disagree with OSHA’s conclusions and are ready to present the facts to the agency so that we can resolve our disagreement.”