Beshear: Mayfield candle factory safety protocols under investigation

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Posted at 7:46 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 19:46:31-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — On Tuesday, Governor Andy Beshear announced an investigation into the safety protocols at the candle factory in Mayfield. That's where eight people died when a catastrophic tornado destroyed the building.

However, the governor specified that they're not implying something wrong was done. He said it's protocol to look into workplace deaths.

"It shouldn't suggest that there was any wrongdoing," said Beshear. "But what it should give people confidence in, is that we'll get to the bottom of what happened."

NBC News reports employees at the candle factory "heard the warning sirens and wanted to leave the building. But at least five workers said supervisors warned employees that they would be fired if they left their shifts early."

“I asked to leave and they told me I’d be fired,” Elijah Johnson, a worker at the factory, told NBC News. “Even with the weather like this, you’re still going to fire me?”

"We should have been able to leave,” Mark Saxton told NBC News. “The first warning came, and they just had us go in the hallway. After the warning, they had us go back to work. They never offered us to go home.”

LEX 18 Political Reporter Karolina Buczek asked Governor Beshear whether the state was going to investigate the report. Beshear said the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health Compliance looks at all deaths that happen in a Kentucky workplace.

"I haven't seen any direct accounts from the candle factory itself," said Beshear. "That's something that people are obviously going to look at. I hope that they did everything right. If they didn't, then that information will come out."

"Everybody is expected to live up to certain standards of both the law, of safety, of being decent human beings. I hope everybody lived up to those standards," added Beshear.

Mayfield Consumer Products, the company that owns the candle factory, denied that workers were not able to leave.

“It’s absolutely untrue,” Spokesperson Bob Ferguson told NBC News. “We’ve had a policy in place since Covid began. Employees can leave any time they want to leave and they can come back the next day.”

According to NBC News, "he also denied that managers told employees that leaving their shifts meant risking their jobs. Ferguson said managers and team leaders undergo a series of emergency drills that follow guidelines of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration."

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