DOL Cites US Steel for Asbestos Violations
U.S. Steel Corporation is facing up to $170,000 in fines under U.S. Department of Labor’s workplace health and safety agency allegations it has repeatedly exposed workers to asbestos.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Pittsburgh-based steel giant allegedly gave seven employees tasks that exposed them to asbestos twice in about a one-month period.
The violations occurred in February and March 2016 at the manufacturer’s Pittsburgh coke production facility, OSHA said in a statement Monday (Aug. 8).
"Once again, we have found U.S. Steel [Corporation] failed to protect its employees from the serious risks of asbestos exposure. Breathing airborne asbestos fibers can cause lung damage that often progresses to disability and possible death," said Christopher Robinson, director of OSHA's Pittsburgh Area Office.
"Given the potential danger to the health of its workers, the company must take immediate steps needed to avoid its employees' prolonged exposure to asbestos," he added.
OSHA opened its investigation on March 16 in response to an employee complaint filed with the agency.
During the first week of February, the agency says, five workers at the Pittsburgh coke production facility were allegedly directed to remove and replace packing material containing asbestos.
In March, OSHA found two other employees had reportedly burned and removed a rotted section of expansion pipe at the company's direction. The pipe later tested positive for asbestos.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that naturally occurs in rock and soil. It was historically used in building materials and in construction for fireproofing and insulation. If inhaled, microscopic asbestos particles can lodge deep in the lungs, increasing risks of developing lung disease or cancer.
This is the second time since 2011 that OSHA has cited U.S. Steel for exposing employees to asbestos hazards at the same site, the agency noted. At that time, the company was fined $35,000 for asbestos violations cited; the penalty was later reduced to $5,250 under a formal settlement, documents show.
|Centers for Disease Control
If inhaled, microscopic asbestos particles can lodge deep in the lungs, increasing risks of developing lung disease or cancer.
The 2016 investigation identified four serious violations, each carrying a $5,000 penalty, and six repeat violations, which carry a $25,000 penalty each.
“Inspectors found the company failed—as it did in 2011—to establish a regulated area and inform employees of the presence of asbestos-containing material, conduct initial employee monitoring and ensure a negative exposure assessment, implement specific engineering controls and designate a qualified person to oversee the work and issued repeat citations,” the agency wrote.
The citation indicates that the company also used compressed air improperly in maintenance and repair operations, did not provide employee training or utilize appropriate containment and disposal methods.
All violations were reported as “corrected during inspection,” according to the notification documents.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Recent DOL Activity
The steel manufacturer was recently the defendant in a DOL lawsuit claiming the manufacturer retaliated against workers who reported workplace injuries. U.S. Steel settled the suit in July, agreeing to return unpaid wages to the employees represented by the DOL and retract the injury reporting policy that was at the center of the complaint.