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Ashley Furniture settles OSHA charges

Ashley Furniture settles OSHA charges

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. have reached a corporatewide settlement to address workplace safety hazards identified by the agency at facilities operated by the company, which will pay $1.75 million in penalties.

The Arcadia, Wisconsin-based home decor retailer was cited by OSHA for more than 40 safety violations in 2015 and faced more than $2.2 million in proposed penalties for violations such as failing to protect workers from moving machine parts, according to the agency.

Ashley Furniture previously pledged to vigorously challenge the “outrageous” allegation that it failed to protect workers from moving machine parts. But the retailer has now agreed to implement a framework to protect workers from such hazards, including retaining a vice president for safety responsible for managing a corporatewide program to identify and evaluate prevention and control of machine hazards, according to OSHA.

The settlement agreement resolves all pending OSHA citations at the company's plants in Arcadia and Whitehall, Wisconsin, and in Ecru and Ripley, Mississippi.

“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,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said Wednesday in a statement. “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.”

Under the settlement agreement, Ashley Furniture 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.

“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,” the company said in a statement. “Safety is a key value and something that we at Ashley take very seriously. In the last five years, we have spent over $67 million on modern manufacturing equipment and safety initiatives with the goal of improving the working environment for our employees.”

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