jsonline: The U.S. Labor Department hit hard Monday at Ashley Furniture Industries Inc., seeking hefty fines and saying the Wisconsin firm is emphasizing profit over worker safety … fine Ashley nearly $1.8 million for a raft of safety violations.
Over three and a half years, workers experienced more than 1,000 work-related injuries … aren't small cuts and scrapes. All were what OSHA considers "recordable," meaning they required treatment by someone other than the injured person, said Mark Hysell, the agency's area director … "Ashley Furniture has created a culture that values production and profit over worker safety, and employees are paying the price," U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement.
Of course that was the price of "freedom and liberty" at Ashley Furniture...lost appendages.
Ashley said it "strongly disputes the allegations … and believes the proposed penalties are grossly inappropriate and overzealous."
Why would Ashley CEO Todd Wanek want to deny something he overzealously supports?
LaCrosse Tribune: From a table of literature spread out for visitors, Ron Wanek grabbed a flyer decrying federal regulations, including environmental, workplace and health care rules, saying, “This is what’s going to kill industry in the United States.”
He really did say that. Think OSHA is making this up?
Pay to Play Walker Authority: Do free market campaign donors get special favors? Come on, this is Walker:
WSJ: The WEDC board, which is led by Gov. Scott Walker, OK'd Ashley Furniture getting $6 million tax credit, cutting 1,900 jobs … with a condition allowing the company to eliminate half of its state workforce … lay off half of its current 3,848 Wisconsin-based workers in exchange for an enterprise zone tax credit. The company has indicated “that if the project is not undertaken it will either downsize or close the Arcadia manufacturing plant completely.”
WSJ: Less than a month after the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board approved a $6 million tax credit for Ashley Furniture Industries, the company’s owners gave $20,000 to Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign.
Our incidental governor would tell you he was unaware of the contribution. So what's got OSHA so uptight? Here are the gory details:
OSHA launched an investigation at Ashley after a worker lost three fingers last July while operating a woodworking machine without required safety mechanisms in place … The agency said more than 100 other injuries at Ashley were caused by similar machinery … OSHA identified 38 safety violations at Ashley, including 12 that were "willful" — violations committed "with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health."
Some of the violations involve lack of safety guards on dangerous machinery such as saws and drills. Ashley knew that the guards were required but "chose not to follow" the rules in the interest of production, Hysell said in an interview. He described Ashley's violations as "egregious."
OSHA launched its investigation after being told that a worker had lost fingers at the Arcadia plant in July, Hysell said. But before Jan. 1, Ashley — or any company — had no obligation to report workplace injuries such as amputations, Hysell said. A change in federal regulations that took effect on the first of the year now requires companies to report recordable injuries to OSHA.