Furniture manufacturer cited again for on-the-job machine hazards

OSHA proposes $431K in fines for safety hazards at Whitehall, Wisconsin, facility

Posted October 22, 2015

The nation's largest retailer of home decor faces $431,000 in proposed federal safety and health fines for failing to protect workers from moving machine parts at its Whitehall upholstery factory. This penalty is in addition to more than $1.8 million in fines issued earlier this year during inspections at other company facilities in Wisconsin.

OSHA issued the company one willful, five repeated and two serious citations on October 19. The company faces the $431,000 in penalties as a result of an April 2015 inspection initiated under the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). Company headquarters in Arcadia, Wisconsin received similar citations in January 2015 and July 2015.

OSHA determined that the company failed to implement procedures to prevent machines from unintentional start-up when operators changed blades, cleaned machines, and cleared jams exposing workers to dangerous machine operating parts. The company failed to have operators use locking devices to prevent unexpected machine movement, a procedure known as lockout/tagout. This violation is among OSHA's most frequently cited and often results in death or permanent disability.

The agency cited the furniture company in January 2015 for 38 safety violations. Proposed penalties total $1,766,000. OSHA issued the citations following an investigation that found workers at the Arcadia plant experienced more than 1,000 OSHA recordable work-related injuries in the previous three and one-half years. A recordable injury requires medical treatment beyond first aid, or results in death, lost work hours, restricted work or a job transfer.

The agency also proposed penalties of $83,200 in July 2015 as a result of its investigation of a March 11, 2015, amputation injury. OSHA placed the company in the SVEP for failure to address safety hazards. As a result of the SVEP designation, inspections are open at the company’s facilities in California, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

The company has contested all citations issued. A hearing before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission will be scheduled.

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