Ashley Furniture is the largest manufacturer of furniture in the world. With one of the industry’s broadest product assortments, the family-owned company claims to provide customers with the “best value, selection and service in the furniture industry.”
Not only that, the company boasts some of the most efficient production standards in the world. They are able to “maximize productivity and minimize waste,” of course with no other motive than “generating additional savings” for their customers.
All of these spectacular feats are accomplished with minimal casualties—or, should we say, 1,000 work-related injuries within a three-and-a-half year period at the company’s Arcadia facility in Wisconsin.
1,000 work-related injuries within a three-and-a-half year period? That’s the equivalent to an injury occurring every 1.095 days!
Of the recorded injuries, more than 100 were caused by machines without required safety mechanisms in place, resulting in multiple occurrences of employee amputations.
Who’s to blame?
Rather than reevaluating the company’s safety management program or taking accountability for the accidents, Ashley Furniture apparently blamed the victims for their own injuries. But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a branch of the Department of Labor (DOL), appears to believe otherwise.
After one worker lost three fingers back in July 2014, OSHA conducted an inspection of the Arcadia facility. Investigators found the following:
- 12 willful safety violations, where Ashley Furniture either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.
- 12 repeated safety violations, which means the company was cited previously for the same or similar conditions after previous inspections.
- 14 serious violations, indicating the company knew, or should have known, about several hazards that can result in death or serious physical harm.
Not training workers on safety procedures or hazards, a lack-of adequate drenching facilities for workers exposed to corrosive materials, electrical safety violations, and not equipping some machines with accessible emergency stop buttons were among some of the serious violations identified by investigators.
As a result, Ashley Furniture faces $1.76 million in fines and has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
The company did not take the necessary steps to protect workers from moving machine parts.
One thing is clear. Ashley Furniture willfully and knowingly disregarded the law and the biggest asset the company possesses: its employees.
“Ashley Furniture has created a culture that values production and profit over worker safety, and employees are paying the price,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor of occupational safety and health, added to Perez’s remarks, “Ashley Furniture intentionally and willfully disregarded OSHA standards and its own corporate safety manuals to encourage workers to increase productivity and meet deadlines… There is clear evidence that injuries were caused by the unsafe conditions created by the company.”
Consequently, the lives of hundreds of employees have been changed for the worse.
But don’t worry all you furniture lovers. Ashley Furniture is continuing business as usual in their own sunny way, reminding us all of the best ways to decorate our living rooms and match our pillows through various social media posts.
Let’s hope no random limbs or fingers are hiding behind those cushions!
What should have Ashley Furniture done better?
It’s obvious there are several things Ashley Furniture could do better when it comes to workplace safety. In order to identify and further discuss the safety issues within the company, we will be writing a follow-up article that will be published on February 13, 2015.
But we want your input! Please comment below or join our forum conversation and answer the following question:
What are the 3 things Ashley Furniture should have done better to avoid employee injuries and costly fines?
Your responses may be featured on our follow-up article.
UPDATE: Click here to view the follow-up article.