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Steel Maker OKs Multi-Plant OSHA Pact

Friday, April 13, 2012

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A major steel producer with a lengthy history of federal health and safety violations at its plants will be writing checks indefinitely to resolve the latest case, involving an employee who broke his pelvis in a fall.

Republic Steel, formally known as Republic Engineered Products Inc., will pay $235,000 in fines, hire full-time health and safety managers, and improve safety training for workers at all of its steel mills under the jurisdiction of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

4 Plants Affected

The settlement resolves the case at three willful violations of fall protection standards and three repeat violations of lockout/tagout standards at the company’s facility in Lorain, OH, where the worker suffered a nine-foot fall in November 2010.

 The agreement covers four Republic Steel plants in Ohio and New York, which employ about 2,200 people.

 Republic Steel

The agreement covers four Republic Steel plants in Ohio and New York, which employ about 2,200 people.

OSHA originally cited Republic for seven willful violations—OSHA’s highest level of infraction—and three repeat citations and proposed $563,000 in fines.

“Republic Steel has agreed to make an investment in the health and safety of its workers by increasing training and accountability at its mills,” said Greg Baxter, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Chicago. “Companies that put the health and safety of workers first should be recognized for their investments in human capital, our nation’s most precious resource.”

In addition to the Lorain plant, which dates to 1895, the settlement binds Republic’s facilities in Canton and Massillon, OH, and Blasdell, NY. In all, the plants employ about 2,200 people.

Training, Hiring Ordered

Under the settlement, safety and health managers must be hired at each mill. Those managers will have the authority to suspend work until a safety or health issue has been abated without having to refer the matter to the mill’s manager or other supervisors. Each safety and health manager will make a bimonthly, random safety inspection of the mill, as well as a quarterly inspection at another one of the company’s mills.

The company must also establish a Joint Safety Committee that will audit inspections, develop best safety practices, and meet on a monthly basis. Republic must also:

• Post in-plant safety bulletins;

• Create a quarterly newsletter;

• Implement a system for employees to notify management anonymously of health and safety concerns; and

• Allow safety coordinators with the United Steel Workers to have increased access to the company’s hourly workforce.

The agreement also mandates “increased and improved training” by a third-party consultant on fall protection and lockout/tagout procedures and training designed for contractors. Within 12 months, the company must develop a 10-hour health and safety training program specific to its operations. Republic will also pay attendance fees for safety coordinators and safety committee members to participate in the United Steel Workers training conference.

Other Measures, Other Violations

Additional measures have been ordered for the mill in Lorain, which now employs 489 people and is about to expand. The Lorain mill must also provide a two-hour lockout/tagout training program to all affected employees, conduct a fall hazard audit, and develop a fall protection abatement plan.

Earlier this month, Republic reached a four-year labor agreement with its union workers, clearing the way for an $87 million new furnace and upgrade to the Lorain plant that will expand production capacity and add 449 new jobs, the company says.

OSHA has inspected Republic’s Lorain mill dozens of times since 1990 and cited it on 24 occasions—issuing one to 16 violations each time—since 2002. The company’s other sites have been inspected a total of 53 times since 1990, resulting in citations for a total of 124 violations.

Republic Steel is North America’s leading supplier of special bar quality steel. The company also operates rolling and finishing facilities in Ohio, New York, Indiana and Ontario.

Company Response

In a statement issued Friday (April 9), Republic Steel said it “had taken on a number of health and safety initiatives dating back to late 2010, and will continue to build on those efforts with the support of OSHA and the union. These initiatives have already resulted in the enhancement of the company’s safety culture and overall safety program.”

The statement added: “Republic Steel is committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for its employees and contractors. The company’s Environmental, Health & Safety policy of “P.I.C.” (Prevent injuries and pollution, Improve continuously, and Comply with regulations) is central to our safety improvements.

“The health and safety of our employees is a core value of Republic Steel. We look forward to building on our positive relationship with our employees and OSHA through ongoing and improved health and safety initiatives.”

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Health and safety; OSHA; Violations

Comment from Anna Jolly, (4/17/2012, 12:56 PM)

Wow, I really do not know how you can run a steel plant without having someone to run a safety program. It is too bad that it had to get so bad for everyone involved.


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/24/2012, 11:54 AM)

Anna - I suppose that a plant built in 1895 could have a lot of institutional inertia (resistance to change) and have an attitude of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."


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