Keeping workers safe on the job is one of the most critical elements of success in the manufacturing industry. Unfortunately, some companies do not live up to their obligations in providing employees with a safe working environment. One of the worst offenders in recent years is Ashley Furniture Industries, which has incurred repeated violations with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) due to its failure to institute required safety measures on behalf of its employees. Closer to home, injured workers can consult with a Houston industrial accident attorney to ensure that they receive the compensation they need to pay for medical expenses and to achieve a swift recovery. Continued Problems at Major Furniture Manufacturer OSHA records indicate that Ashley Furniture was cited in 2010 for safety violations related to maintenance procedures at its Arcadia manufacturing plant. The specific rule violated is known informally as the lockout or tagout rule and requires that machines be disconnected completely from their power sources and stabilized to prevent unexpected movement before maintenance is performed. Even after these citations, however, Ashley Furniture continued to violate OSHA safety rules regarding safety practices:
- Employees of the furniture manufacturing firm had been injured more than 1,000 times in less than four years.
- OSHA initiated inspections of Ashley Furniture facilities after a worker’s finger was partially amputated in 2014. On March 11, 2015, another worker lost three fingers while operating woodworking machinery, which prompted another OSHA investigation.
- The company routinely urged workers to perform their duties more quickly; this may have contributed to the high number of injuries in the various plants and facilities maintained by the furniture giant.
- Ashley Furniture’s Whitehall upholstery plant was cited specifically for failure to abide by the lockout rule when employees changed blades and performed other hazardous duties in the workplace setting. These violations occurred even after the company’s Arcadia plant was cited for similar practices in January 2015.
Ashley Furniture is disputing all OSHA citations and fines and is currently awaiting a hearing before the Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission. Fines May Not Be Enough to Prompt Compliance Although OSHA has recommended fines amounting to more than $2 million dollars for Ashley Furniture, this may represent only a minor financial inconvenience. The company generates almost $4 billion in revenues each year and is ranked number 117 in the list of largest private U.S. companies. Ashley Furniture has been added to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Companies are given this status as a result of repeated and willful violations of OSHA rules or for failure to abate dangerous conditions in the workplace and are subject to increased inspections and larger fines for any identified violations. This added scrutiny may actually create more pressure for change at Ashley Furniture than the repeated threat of fines and financial losses. Putting the Focus on Worker Safety Ashley Furniture is far from the only violator on OSHA’s radar. The Texas City chemical plant accident that occurred on March 23, 2005 is a classic example of a company putting safety issues on the back burner in its pursuit of profits. More than 170 people were injured and 15 workers lost their lives in this BP plant explosion. Unfortunately, many companies continue to put their employees at risk in Texas and across the nation through negligent safety practices and failure to adhere to OSHA regulations regarding training and equipment for their employees. Retaining the professional services of a Texas City industrial accident attorney can be a good first step for workers who have been injured on the job. By holding companies responsible for dangerous conditions in the workplace, it may be possible to change the culture of neglect and negligence currently in place in some industrial facilities in Houston and throughout the state of Texas.