A well known furniture company is currently facing $431,000 in federal safety and health fines at its Whitehall, WI location, an upholstery factory which employs 475 workers. These additional fines are on top of the $1.8 million worth of fines the company has been issued this year during inspections at other facilities in Wisconsin. Through it all, the company disagrees with the fines and plans on challenging them.
Among the fines issued OSHA has found the company guilty of one willful, five repeated and two serious citations. At an inspection in April of 2015 OSHA investigators visited the Whitewall location because the company is in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. OSHA determined that the company did not put procedures in place to prevent machines from unintentional startup when operators changed blades, cleaned machines and cleared jams, which exposed workers to dangerous machinery.
“Workers risked amputation injuries each time they serviced the machinery,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. “the company failed to implement required safety procedures to protect machine operators until after OSHA opened its inspection. The company must make immediate, enforceable safety improvements at its facilities nationwide.”
In January, the a different location (same company) was cited by OSHA for 38 safety violations, with penalties totaling $1.766 million. These citations were issued after an investigation found workers at the plant experienced more than 1,000 work-related injuries in the previous 3 1/2 years that were severe enough to have required medical treatment beyond first aid or resulted in death, lost work hours, restricted work or a job transfer.
In July, OSHA proposed penalties of $83,200 as a result of an investigation a March 11th amputation incident which placed the company in the severe violator program. Because of this failure to address safety hazards facilities in California, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and North Carolina are currently open as well.
The company strongly disagrees with OSHA’s findings and has released a statement saying that they continue to expand their safety program with additional training, machinery processes and other improvements. They continued by saying that they have had a track record of lowering the number of incidents and lost work hours with a commitment to improvements in safety across the company.
This situation only stands to emphasize the importance of proactively taking safety in the workplace seriously, and having proper lockout-tagout policies in place.
At ESC Services, we are in the business of lockout/tagout. If you have any questions, or need help implementing a program for your business, contact us today.