Why do candle factory employees keep working?


But why do its workers continue to make candles on Friday night like a tornado fell The area remains unclear as rescuers continue to scour the wreckage of the factory for signs of life.

The Kentucky governor said Sunday the storm was so intense that there was no safe place to hide inside the factory.

Governor Andy Beshear said: “It looks like most are sheltering where they’ve been told to stay. “I hope the area is as safe as possible, but this thing was hit by the strongest tornado we could imagine.”

A company spokesman said on Sunday that eight of the 110 Friday night shift workers were confirmed dead and eight others were missing. More than 90 people have now been counted, making the death toll lower than some had feared a few hours earlier.

Emergency workers search for what’s left of the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021. – Tornadoes tore through five US states overnight, killing more than 70 people Saturday in Kentucky and leaving several others dead at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois that suffered “catastrophic damage” with about 100 people trapped inside. in. The town of Mayfield in western Kentucky was the storm’s “point zero” – a sight of “massive devastation,” an official said. (Photo by John Amis/AFP) (Photo by JOHN AMIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“Many employees gathered at the tornado shelter and after the storm ended, they left the factory and returned to their homes,” said Bob Ferguson, a spokesman for the company. “Initially there was a power outage and without a landline, it was difficult for them to contact.”

Workers said they were told to gather in the central corridor, the strongest part of the building, as the storm approached. Some left earlier in the night after the warning sirens sounded, they said.

The plant employs many people in and around Mayfield, a city of about 10,000 people in the southwestern corner of Kentucky. It is Graves County’s third-largest employer, according to the county’s website. Even some inmates at the county jail used to work there.

Scented candles made in the factory eventually found their way onto the shelves of popular retailers like Bath & Body Works. In a statement, the Ohio retailer said it was “devastated by the horrific loss of life at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory – a longtime partner of ours”.

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The company’s founder, Mary Propes, in the mid-1990s “actually started this in her garage and it’s grown into one of the biggest candle makers,” says Ferguson.

And this is high season in Mayfield because of the lighting of gift candles as Christmas approaches. Not long before the disaster struck, the company posted on Facebook that it was looking to hire more people for 10- to 12-hour shifts involving fast-paced work and overtime. tie.

Most US candle makers used to fill their holiday orders in early November, but shortages, said Kathy LaVanier, CEO of Ohio-based Renegade Candle Company. Labor and other economic trends tied to the COVID-19 pandemic have extended the recession into December. a board member at the National Candlestick Association.

LaVanier said candlemakers across the US are horrified by what happened in Kentucky and are trying to find ways to help. Unlike many other manufactured products, most candles sold in the US are made in the US, in part because of the high and longstanding tariffs on candles made in China.

“All of us in the candle business are reeling,” she said. “It could be any of us.”

LaVanier said regular disaster drills are important at candle factories, especially to include temporary workers who may be new to the area to meet spikes in demand. But the way they’re built – rarely with basements and structured to accommodate long production lines – it’s hard to avoid damage when a hurricane really wreaks havoc.

“If we had enough advance notice and felt it was serious enough, you could send everyone home,” she said.

Bryanna Travis, 19, and Jarred Holmes, 20, stood guard near the ruins of the Mayfield candle factory Saturday, where they had worked for months, often for around $14.50 a hour. The engaged couple was inactive when the storm made landfall.

“I have worked with these people. I talked to these people. I’ve been trying to build connections with these people. And I don’t know if one of my friends is gone,” said Holmes.

Holmes said there were no drills during the time they worked at the plant to prepare people in the event of a storm.

“We haven’t had one since we’ve been there,” he said.

Ferguson, a spokesman for the company, said the drills were common and workers followed instructions when they found shelter.

“There were regular drills and the staff went to the bunker, an interior part of that building,” he said. “They’ve been there long enough for roll-call.” However, he said, “the tornado was of such rare size and strength that” it was destructive.

The company said in a statement on its website that it has started an emergency fund to help employees and their families.

“We are heartbroken about this and our immediate efforts are to support those affected by this terrible disaster,” said Troy Propes CEO, son of Mary Propes, in a statement. declare. “Our company is family owned and our employees, some of whom have worked with us for many years, are appreciated.”

The Kentucky state health and safety agency’s website lists a series of 12 safety violations at the plant in 2019, though it doesn’t say what they’re for. Ferguson says it involved worker error involving circuit breakers, which resulted in extensive safety training and a modest fine. Why do candle factory employees keep working?


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