Ashley Furniture fined $431,000 for alleged violations
Company will ‘vigorously challenge’ proposed OSHA citations

Freeman Staff

Oct. 19, 2015

WHITEHALL — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has again issued citations totaling $431,000 in federal safety and health fines to Ashley Furniture for alleged violations Monday.

According to OSHA, the Wisconsin-based company failed to protect workers from moving machine parts at its Whitehall upholstery factory and was issued one willful, five repeated and two serious citations Monday.

Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. issued a statement saying it “strongly disagrees – and will vigorously challenge – proposed citations filed” by OSHA.

The citations Monday come after OSHA earlier this year cited Ashley Furniture a total of $1.8 million in fines during inspections at other company facilities in Wisconsin.

Ashley Furniture responded that OSHA’s announcement is “not a finding of fact, but its assertions of alleged violations stem from inspections at the plant on April 20 to 24, 2015.”

“The claim that Ashley failed to protect its workers from moving machine parts is outrageous,” said Paul Waters, legal counsel for Ashley Furniture, in a statement. “At all times, Ashley has machine guards in place that are provided by the manufacturer and, in some cases, the company has gone beyond what manufacturers put in place by installing additional guards and implementing special procedures to protect workers. We will vigorously defend ourselves against these charges before the Review Commission.”

According to OSHA, Ashley Furniture failed to implement procedures to prevent machines from unintentional start-up when operators changed blades, cleaned machines and cleared jams exposing workers to dangerous machine operating parts. The company failed to have operators use locking devices to prevent unexpected machine movement, a procedure known as lockout/tagout. This violation is among OSHA's most frequently cited and often results in death or permanent disability.

Ashley Furniture said it is continuing to expand its safety program with more training, additional machinery processes and other improvements.