Candle factory owner damaged in tornado plan detail

The company that operated a Kentucky candle factory that was leveled by a deadly winter tornado plans to ramp up production with a $33 million investment at a nearby plant, Governor Andy Beshear announced Thursday.

Mayfield Consumer Products LLC, a maker of candles and other home fragrance products, plans to employ more than 500 people full-time at its factory in Hickory over the next five years as it builds production. The company’s plant in Mayfield was hit directly by the tornado that devastated the city last December.

Many workers at the factory died – out of 81 killed in Kentucky, the storm lashed parts of western Kentucky. Thousands of homeless found shelter with relatives and friends, or in emergency facilities, hotels and state parks.

.Beshear, a Democrat, touted the economic growth news Thursday without mentioning the workplace citations leveled against the company. The announcement comes just weeks after state officials issued citations against the company for alleged violations of Kentucky’s occupational safety and health laws. The company faces $21,000 in potential fines for three alleged violations related to the tornado, according to state Labor cabinet documents obtained through an open records request by the Associated Press on Thursday.

When asked about the citations later Thursday, the governor’s office did not immediately comment.

The company is also defending itself against a lawsuit it claims showed “major apathy” by refusing to allow employees to go home as the storm approached. Company officials did not immediately return calls Thursday seeking comment about the quotes.

Beshear said more job announcements would be made as the Mayfield area continues to be dug up by massive tornado damage.

“This expansion will re-establish the company’s employment base in the region and add to the overall reconstruction efforts,” the governor said in his weekly news conference.

The governor has made repeated visits to western Kentucky in support of recovery efforts. He was recently on hand when three families were handed the keys to new homes in Mayfield – the first homes to be fully built there since the tornado.

Mayfield Consumer Products had already begun manufacturing on an expansion at its location in Hickory Industrial Park. It now plans another major expansion that will strengthen its operations following the destruction of its Mayfield plant. Hickory is about 6 miles (9.5 kilometers) from Mayfield. The total investment is planned for $33.3 million, the governor’s office said.

Company founder Mary Propps said the expansion shows the company’s “resolve to rebuild here and to play a central role in helping to restore the place we call home.”

“This community has a bright future, and we are committed to being a big part of that progress,” she said in a news release issued by the governor’s office.

The company currently employs 160 people in western Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the state recently said the company had committed three violations it deemed “serious” in relation to the tornado, according to Labor Cabinet documents.

Citations claim that the company failed to keep an exit hallway “free and unobstructed”, did not put in place an alarm system to warn employees of fire or other emergencies, and failed to review an emergency action plan with each employee. failed. Each alleged violation carries a proposed $7,000 fine.

The company had 15 days – excluding weekends – to contest the quotes. A Labor Cabinet spokeswoman said she did not immediately know whether the company had appealed.

An attorney involved in a hurricane-related lawsuit blasted the company for its citations.

Attorney Amos Jones said on the phone Thursday, “Those of us who represent former employees displaced in the tornado certainly hope that the new facilities comply with state safety laws, noting that the company has been seriously affected.” Was slapped with violations.”

Jones said the lawsuit was filed in state court a few days after the tornado, but was transferred to federal court based on a motion filed by the defendants. He said that the plaintiffs are trying to return the case to the state court.

“Either way, the defendants cannot run away from what they did,” Jones said.

The lawsuit accuses Mayfield Consumer Products of violating Kentucky workplace standards by hiring its employees despite the risk of death and injury. The suit claims workers were threatened with sacking hours before the tornado struck. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

A spokesperson for the company said last December that employees were free to leave at any time, and denied that they would face retaliation if they did. A company executive then said that the company was maintaining “an independent expert team” to review the actions of managers and employees when the tornado struck the factory. The executive said the company was confident that its “team leaders did a perfectly reasonable job and were, in fact, heroic in their efforts to shelter our employees.”

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