Two years after being fined nearly $400,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Workplace Administration (OSHA) for dozens of workplace safety violations following the serious injury of an employee in 2018, DCI Furniture is disputing the findings.
“The case is still in contest,” said OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald. “A hearing is tentatively scheduled for late November or early December.”
OSHA cases in dispute can be settled at some point or go to jury trials, though the outcome of the DCI case, which in 2020 had been on deck for a trial after unsuccessful settlement talks with OSHA, is currently unknown.
“There has been no progress as of yet,” DCI owner Henry Kober said Tuesday.
In April 2019, Design Contempo Inc. (DCI), the furniture-manufacturing company headquartered at 265 South Main St. in Lisbon, was fined a total of $378,488 by OSHA, including a willful violation with a penalty of $119,338 regarding the injured employee and 32 serious violations of workplace safety carrying penalties of $274,444.
According to the willful violation, a DCI manager intentionally disabled machine guarding that had been in place to protect operators using an automated CNC wood-cutting machine
The disabling prevented the machine from stopping and resulted in serious injury to the employee, who was pulled into the machine on Oct. 9, 2018, said OSHA inspectors.
OSHA inspections then began at the plant a few days later and lasted to March 2019.
OSHA alleges that the serious violations throughout the plant included electrical, struck-by, flammable and crushing hazards; trip hazards near a mill and saw; obstructed emergency exit routes; no requirement for eye protection near chemical splash hazards and lacquer spray booths; no protection for employees from amputation and laceration; no training to prevent the accidental activation of machinery; electrical repair employees not protected from electric shock or burns; and lack of training for forklift operators.
On April 25, 2019, DCI had a deadline by which to pay the penalties, reach a settlement, or contest the violations.
Kober in 2019 said DCI did not willfully violate any safety or health regulations.
According to OSHA records, DCI in the preceding five years had been inspected twice, once in 2017, which resulted in one serious violation with a penalty that ended in a settlement of $4,075, and once in February 2018, when no violations were found.
DCI was launched in the mid-1970s by Kober, who had been making furniture in a farmhouse barn.
In 1976, he expanded into the former Saranac Glove factory in Littleton before purchasing the current 150,000-square-foot building in Lisbon in the early 1980s.
Hardwood furniture products for the bedroom, dining room, and living room include beds, bookcases, chests, desks and desk chairs, lounge chairs, nightstands, dining and activity tables, end tables, television stands.
Operations also include a factory and warehouse in North Carolina, an assembly facility and warehouse and showroom in California, and a sawmill in South Royalton, Vt.
The company is among the largest employers in the Littleton and Lisbon area and as of 2016 had about 150 employees at the Lisbon site.