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Republic Steel Signs $2.4M OSHA Deal

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

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One of North America’s largest steel makers will pay $2.4 million and overhaul its health and safety management to settle more than 100 federal health and safety violations cited in inspections at four of its plants.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration settlement, announced Monday (April 28), resolves a total of $5,493,320 in fines originally issued to Republic Steel with the citations last fall.

OSHA called the settlement unprecedented in scope.

Republic Steel
Photos: Republic Steel

The settlement involves more than 100 willful and serious violations at four Republic Steel plants in Ohio and New York. The inspections were prompted by a serious accident.

The 46-page Settlement Agreement requires Republic to abate all hazards cited during the inspections and to implement numerous safeguards to prevent future injuries at its plants in Lorain, Canton and Massillon, OH, and in Blaisdell, NY.

The agreement contains two appendices (Appendix A and Appendix B) with additional guidelines and details.

Willful, Serious Violations

The citations include willful and serious violations for failure to provide required fall protection, failure to implement lockout / tagout procedures to protect workers who service or maintain machines, and failure to provide machine guarding to protect workers from hazardous machinery.

The settlement also resolves two other cases opened against the company: an arc flash incident reported at the Lorain plant in June 2013 and numerous fall hazards cited at the Canton plant in August 2013.

The United Steelworkers are also a party to the settlement.

'Wall-to-Wall Inspections'

OSHA initiated the inspections last fall after an employee fell through the roof of a building at the Lorain plant and was seriously injured. OSHA expanded its inspections to the other plants under its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates follow-up inspections for employers who are the most serious violators.

Republic Steel

Republic Steel's president blamed the problems on the aging facilities acquired from the previous owner and said the current owner had made improvements.

In a statement Monday, Republic referred to the OSHA scrutiny last fall as "a series of unprecedented wall-to-wall inspections" that dispatched 23 inspectors throughout the four plants "for nearly 80 days."

"Naturally, given the breadth of OSHA’s inspection and the enormous size of the Company’s facilities, OHSA found violative conditions, many of which the Company was not aware," Republic said. "When these conditions were brought to the Company’s attention, the Company promptly took steps to correct them."

Although Canton, OH-based Republic Steel traces its roots to 1886, it has been owned since July 2005 by Industrias CH, S.A de C.V. (ICH), a steel producer and processor based in Mexico City. Republic Steel is a subsidiary of Grupo Simec, Guadalajara, Mexico. ICH is the majority owner of Grupo Simec.

'Burdened by Aging Facilities'

In his company's statement, Republic President and CEO Jaime Vigil laid the blame for any facility problems on the company's previous owners.

“When our owners purchased this Company in 2005, they acquired a business that had gone through multiple bankruptcies, burdened by aging and antiquated facilities, and neglected over an extended period of time due to the financial situation of the Company,” said Vigil, who signed the agreement on behalf of Republic.

Republic Steel

Republic Steel and its predecessor companies have produced hot rolled bar and coil steel for generations. The company traces its roots to 1886.

ICH, he said, has "invested over $700 million into the Company, protected thousands of jobs, and made countless safety upgrades."

Other Requirements

In addition to the fines and the hazard abatement, Republic Steel has agreed to several additional measures to protect employees. The company will:

  • Hire additional safety and health staff;
  • Conduct internal safety and health inspections with representatives of the United Steelworkers;
  • Establish and implement a comprehensive safety and health management program to identify and correct hazardous working conditions;
  • Hire third-party auditors to assure that hazards are identified and improvements are made; and
  • Meet quarterly with OSHA staff to assure implementation of the agreement.

Republic Steel has also agreed to several key changes in the management of its safety and health program, including:

  • Reviewing and improving plant procedures to ensure OSHA compliance with machine guarding, control of hazardous energy (lockout/tag out), fall protection, personal protective equipment and other critical safety procedures;
  • Implementing an electronic tracking system for identifying hazards/near misses, injuries and illnesses reported by workers;
  • Mailing a letter to workers' families detailing the company's commitment to health and safety;
  • Providing a card to employees informing them of the right to refuse to perform work that they reasonably and in good faith believe is unsafe or unhealthful without fear of being disciplined; and
  • Providing supplemental training for all production and maintenance employees, including managers.

'Change its Culture'

"The terms of this agreement to improve conditions and training are unprecedented," said Dr. David Michaels, the OSHA administrator.

Republic Steel

Republic Steel said it was the target of "wall-to-wall" OSHA inspections after an employee fell through a roof and was seriously injured last fall.

Added U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez: "By agreeing to the terms of this settlement, Republic Steel has demonstrated a commitment to change its culture, invest in its employees, and work with OSHA and the United Steelworkers to make significant changes at its facilities that will improve the safety and health of its workers,"

"The Labor Department looks forward to working with Republic Steel to ensure that it lives up to its commitment to improve workplace safety."

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Health and safety; Labor; OSHA; Steel

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