Wisconsin-based furniture maker cited for alleged safety violations, US$431,000 fine

Previous contested fines amount to US$1.8 million

WHITEHALL, Wis. (AP) — A federal safety agency has again cited Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. for alleged safety violations at one of its Wisconsin factories.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleged Monday that Arcadia-based Ashley failed to protect workers from moving machine parts at its upholstery plant in Whitehall.

The agency contends Ashley failed to put in place procedures at the plant to keep machines from accidentally starting up while workers cleaned them, changed blades or cleared jams, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

OSHA is proposing $431,000 (all dollars US) in fines. The furniture maker currently is contesting an additional $1.8 million in proposed fines from previous inspections at its factory in Arcadia, in western Wisconsin.

Ashley called the latest allegations "outrageous,'' and said it "will vigorously challenge'' the citations.

"At all times, Ashley has machine guards in place that are provided by the manufacturer and, in some cases, the company has gone beyond what manufacturers put in place by installing additional guards and implementing special procedures to protect workers,'' Paul Waters, legal counsel for the firm, said in the statement.

Early this year, OSHA staff accused Ashley of 38 safety violations at its Arcadia factory and sought nearly $1.8 million in fines.

In July, OSHA cited Ashley again, for allegedly failing to report an accident in which an employee lost a finger. The agency staff is seeking $83,200 in fines in that case.

Ashley is contesting the citations and fines in both cases.

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