OSHA and Ashley Furniture, the nation’s largest retailer of home furnishings, have entered into a corporate-wide settlement agreement that the agency believes provides an effective framework for protecting workers from machine hazards. The agreement also resolves all pending OSHA citations at the company’s plants in Arcadia and Whitehall, Wisconsin, and in Ecru and Ripley, Mississippi.
According to the terms of the agreement, Ashley will demonstrate its corporate commitment to safety by retaining a vice president for safety, who will be responsible for managing a corporate-wide program to identify and evaluate prevention and control of machine hazards. The comprehensive settlement emphasizes employee involvement and management commitment to the implementation of the machine safety program.
“With this settlement, Ashley Furniture is taking important steps to change its culture, invest in its employees and work with OSHA to make significant changes to protect the safety and health of workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “We look forward to working with Ashley Furniture to ensure that it fulfills its commitment and focuses on reducing injuries on the job. This settlement is an important reminder that every worker has the right to a safe workplace, and we will continue to use all available tools to protect that right.”
As per the settlement agreement, Ashley will implement a number of safety measures to protect its employees and will submit status reports to OSHA annually during the two-year term of the agreement. The company will conduct periodic audits of facilities to identify machine hazards, as well as an annual review of the effectiveness of the program; develop internal corporate monitoring provisions; and identify a corporate officer or senior managers who will act as a designated official responsible for implementation and oversight of the agreement.
“This settlement will require Ashley Furniture to implement a program to prevent machine hazards, in particular those that lead to amputations. In addition, workers will now have a voice in how to continuously improve working conditions and safety in the covered plants,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
The settlement agreement with Ashley resolves numerous violations that OSHA issued to several Ashley workplaces. OSHA conducted inspections at several Ashley workplaces after learning of injuries at the Arcadia facility, and realizing that similar hazardous conditions could exist at the other workplaces. To resolve all citations, the company will correct all cited violations and will pay penalties of $1.75 million.
Ashley Furniture released a statement saying it is working cooperatively OSHA and voluntarily entered into the settlement agreement.
“Ashley’s voluntary efforts in cooperatively working with OSHA officials to proactively resolve contested matters reflects its commitment to the health and safety of its employees. Safety is a key value and something that we at Ashley take very seriously… The results of this voluntary agreement go beyond simple compliance with the OSHA standards and include tools to proactively correct issues and create a model safety system,” noted the company.
Headquartered in Arcadia, Ashley Furniture is listed by Forbes magazine as the 105th largest private company in America with $4 billion in annual revenue as of October 2015. The worldwide distributor employs nearly 22,000 workers at 30 locations nationwide.