By Russ and Tiña De Maris
RV manufacturer Forest River (FR) isn’t just big on sales but in another category — on-the-job injuries. So reported IOSHA, the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which sent its inspectors to various FR plants to check out the situation. The agency subsequently issued 55 violation notices between September 2017 and November 2018 in 10 of the company’s plants throughout the state, and labeled 44 of the violations as “serious.” Fines for the violations (some of them repeated, even after their initial citation) totaled $254,957.
During the time FR drew its fines, only four other RV-related manufacturers in the state got fined for safety issues, with Lippert Components the biggest violator with a paltry $45,000 for 10 violations.
South Bend, Indiana, TV station ABC57 aired an investigative report on the matter and suggested it had found what might be the root of the problem: Employees pushed to crank out rigs in a hurry, and a widespread culture of employee drug use. Evidently FR provides a piece-rate incentive to workers: The more a worker produces, the more he or she is paid. Employees rush for output, with safety precautions often ignored. While RVtravel.com thought the report had the feel of tabloid journalism, much of what was reported was backed by documentation.
From January through August of 2017, employees in Indiana Forest River plants had multiple foot fractures, one broken pelvis, and a total of nine fingers amputated. Drugs were not the only culprit: IOSHA inspectors found instances of improper safety training and a laxness of requiring proper safety gear.
Manufacturing facilities the company owns in four other states have also been hit with a tab of $137,000 for safety violations, 33 of which were labeled “serious.” A number of self-professed Forest River RV customers, on reading the internet story from the TV station, have added their own comments, raising concerns about the workplace situation to their own experience of poor quality in new rigs.
ABC57 reports, “We brought these allegations to Forest River’s attention, leaving detailed voicemails and emails, but so far they have not responded to our requests for comment or for an on-camera interview.” Meanwhile, the station has requested workers who feel their job situation is hazardous contact the broadcaster to relate their experiences.
Source: RVtravel.com and abc57.com