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OSHA Fines Steel Producer $1.1M+

Thursday, August 15, 2013

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Adding to an already long list of federal health and safety violations, Republic Steel has received two dozen new citations and a proposed penalty of $1,138,500, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on Tuesday (Aug. 13).

Republic Steel was cited for 24 safety violations—15 willful, eight serious, and one repeat—related to fall protection, tripping and electrical hazards, lack of proper personal protective equipment, confined space hazards, and more at the company's Canton, OH, steel manufacturing plant.

Complaint Launches Inspection

The inspection, which opened in February, was launched after OSHA received a formal complaint from the United Steelworkers Union alleging inadequate fall protection and other unsafe practices exposing workers to various hazards.

Republic Steel Canton
Todd Dillon / Flickr

OSHA has inspected Republic Steel's Canton, OH, facility on 16 other occasions. The federal agency alleges 24 violations from its most recent investigation.

During the inspection, OSHA also learned that two workers had been seriously injured in falls at the Canton location in June and August 2012.

"People working hard to provide for their families should not have to worry each day whether they'll come home," Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in a statement.

"Republic Steel put their workers' lives in danger, and that kind of disregard for safety will not be tolerated," Perez said.

Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, added: "Republic Steel has a long history of OSHA violations and disregard for employee safety and health. It is unacceptable that Republic Steel has not taken more effective steps to improve safety at the Canton plant, particularly in light of a 2012 settlement aimed at exactly that. OSHA will remain dilgent in its commitment to protect America's steel workers."

The company has a history of failing to protect workers against fall hazards, according to OSHA. In 2012, the company entered into a settlement with OSHA for three willful fall hazard violations at its Lorain, OH, plant after an employee was seriously injured in a nine-foot fall. In addition to paying $235,000 in fines, the company also agreed to hire full-time health and safety managers and improve safety training for workers at all of its steel mills.

Republic Steel could not be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon (Aug. 14).

15 Willful Violations

The willful violations, OSHA's highest level of infraction, each carry a proposed penalty of $70,000. Willful violations are those committed with "intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or plain indifference to employee safety and health."

One willful violation alleges that Republic Steel did not provide protection from falls when workers had to feed material into a hatchway or chute opening. OSHA said employees were exposed to a fall of approximately 30 feet into slag pits while taking a manual temperature reading of an electric arc furnace.

repeat OSHA violations
Wikimedia Commons / Deutsche Fotothek

According to OSHA, Republic Steel employees were exposed to falls of up to 66 feet in some instances. Several citations were issued for a lack of fall protection while working on or around an electric arc furnace.

Seven of the willful violations allege unguarded open-sided floors and/or platforms four feet or more above the adjacent floor or ground. Specifically, OSHA found employees were exposed to:

  • Falls of over 19 feet into molten metal;
  • Falls of approximately 20 feet while working from a platform above an electric arc furnace directing the crane operator to remove and replace electrodes;
  • Falls of approxmiately 20 feet due to a missing guardrail on one corner of the platform;
  • Falls of approximately 9 feet while walking/working on access platforms of a scrap pick-up crane (three citations); and
  • Falls of approximately 30 feet while walking on a catwalk.

Four willful violations were issued for runways four feet or more above floor or ground level that were not guarded by railings or toeboards. On four separate occasions, OSHA says employees were exposed to falls of approximately 66 feet while using the runway access and end truck of cranes while performing maintenance.

Three willful violations were issued for not providing protective equipment. The citations allege that the employer exposed employees to:

  • Falls of approximately 12 feet into a furnace while replacing refractory deltas on the roof of an electric arc furnace;
  • Falls of approximately 15 feet while working on the mast arm of an electric arc furnace; and
  • Falls of approximately 16 feet while climbing off the gantry of an electric arc furnace.

Republic Steel, dba Republic Engineered Products, was previously cited for all 15 of the willful violations in three previous inspections in May 2011 and November 2010 at its Lorain, OH, location, and in December 2010 at its Canton location.

8 Serious, 1 Repeat Violation

The serious violations allege that the employer failed to:

  • Ensure employees walking on the floor of the melt shop were not exposed to trip hazards ($5,500);
  • Ensure uniform rise height and tread width on all flights of stairs, leaving a rise of 21 inches between two steps ($5,500);
  • Protect employees from falling from a ladder that had one rail cut off ($5,500);
  • Ensure employees working around an electric arc furnace wore the correct personal protective equipment to prevent burns ($7,000);
  • Evaluate the worksite to determine if any spaces were permit-required confined spaces ($7,000);
  • Ensure that a written permit required space program was developed and implemented for employees entering permit-required confined spaces ($7,000);
  • Provide proper training for employees entering permit-required confined spaces ($7,000); and
  • Ensure that an electrical panel and ladle dryer combustion air fan motor were designed for wet locations ($5,500).

Serious violations occur when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard that the employer knew or should have known about.

fall hazards
OSHA

All 15 willful violations relate to fall hazards and fall protection, all of which OSHA said it has cited the company for on three prior inspections.

One repeat violation alleges failure to post danger signs or other indications of the existence and location of permit-required confined spaces in the melt shop. The violation carries a proposed penalty of $38,500.

OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer was cited for the same or a similar violation at any of its locations within the last five years. The company's Blasdell, NY, facility was cited for the same violation in August 2009.

History of Violations

Republic Steel will remain on OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which it has been in since 2011. The program focuses on "recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations." The program mandates targeted follow-up inspections.

According to OSHA, the Canton plant has been inspected 16 times, resulting in one willful, two repeat, 22 serious and 23 other-than-serious final order citations. Overall, Republic Steel has been inspected by OSHA 79 times, resulting in the issuance of six willful, 15 repeat, 145 serious and 70 other-than-serious final order citations, OSHA said.

Republic Steel is North America's leading supplier of special bar quality steel.

The company, headquartered in Canton, employs approximately 2,500 workers companywide. In addition to its Canton facility, Republic Steel has mills in Massillon and Lorain, OH, and Blasdell, NY.

The company has 15 business days to contest the citations or request an informal conference with OSHA.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Citations; Fall protection; Health and safety; OSHA; Personal protective equipment; Steel; Violations

Comment from M. Halliwell, (8/15/2013, 10:10 AM)

Sheesh...does Republic just not get it? I've been through my local steel mill a number of times and have never seen this level of disregard for fall arrest or confined space activities. Where is the corporate health and safety manager that they were supposed to bring in? If they have hired one, why can't they do their job? My company has brought one in and, thanks to management being willing to implement new and safer practices he's brought forth, I've seen plenty of changes in the last 6 months. Wake up, Republic....you're going to kill people if you don't.


Comment from josh hutcheson, (8/22/2013, 1:29 PM)

you keep the pressure on the American company for all these items yet you allow china and all the other third world places to do all of these things and much worse and you allow them to bring that junk here and sell it for less than we can make it for if you were interested in saving the people and not the money to run your company why not take all the money and put the safety items in place instead of blowing it on some stupid government run thing that does nothing to help the working man


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