Ashley Furniture Fined $1.76M For Safety Violations

Company Spokesman Disputes Federal Findings

Daniel Oines (CC-BY)

One of western Wisconsin’s largest employers could be facing $1.76 million in fines, after a federal investigation found that Ashley Furniture was not addressing unsafe work conditions.

After an employee lost three fingers on a woodworking machine last July, federal investigators inspected the Arcadia plant and combed through Ashley Furniture’s injury reports.

They found repeated and serious safety violations that resulted in more than 1,000 work-related injuries during a three-year period.

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Ashley officials contend less than one-quarter of those cases required time away from work.

Dr. David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, expressed frustration with the investigation’s findings.

“Every single workplace injury is preventable. If the guards were on these machines and if Ashley had a culture that recognized that workers’ lives and their fingers were of value, no one would have been hurt,” Michaels said. “But that’s not what happened here.”

Michaels said that focusing on the bottom line isn’t enough.

“It’s a false choice, profit or safety. They don’t have to be exclusive. You can do both, successful companies across the country do that. We hope Ashley Furniture learns their lesson and does that too,” said Miachels

In an email, an Ashley Furniture spokesman said the company strongly disputes OSHA’s findings and feels the fines are “grossly inappropriate and overzealous.”

Ashley Furniture has been added to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, meaning the agency will keep a close eye on all of Ashley’s facilities.