$1,138,500 in Fines for Safety Violations by Steel Company

Monday, August 19, 2013

Republic Steel has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 24 safety violations carrying fines of $1,138,500. Fifteen willful violations of OSHA's fall protection standards were found at the company's Canton steel manufacturing plant.

OSHA received a formal complaint from the United Steelworkers Union alleging inadequate fall protection and other unsafe practices exposing workers to various hazards in the plant's melt shop. During the inspection, opened in February 2013, OSHA discovered that two workers had been seriously injured in falls at the site in June and August of 2012.

The company has a history of failing to address fall hazards. In 2011, after an employee was seriously injured in a fall at the company's Lorain, Ohio, facility, OSHA issued willful citations to the company for fall hazards. In a settlement with OSHA in 2012, the company accepted three willful fall hazard violations at the Lorain plant and agreed to address fall protection at its plants, including the Canton plant.

A total of 15 willful violations were cited for failing to provide fall protection in the Canton steel mill. Among the violations noted were lack of fall protection while working on the runway girders that were 66 feet above the ground and falls of 30 feet due to missing and damaged guardrails. Workers were also exposed to falls of up to 30 feet above the slag pit and falls of 20 feet above the electric arc furnace and molten steel ladle. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.

One repeat violation was cited for failing to post danger signs or other effective means of indicating the existence and location of permit-required confined spaces in the melt shop. OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer previously was cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. The same violation was cited in August 2009 at the company's facility in Blasdell, N.Y.

Additionally, eight serious violations include tripping hazards, the use of electrical panels not suitable for wet locations, lack of personal protective equipment for employees working around the furnace, failing to evaluate potential hazards in confined spaces that employees might need to enter such as furnaces and duct work, and failure to train workers on hazards and issue entry permits for those spaces. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Republic Steel will remain in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The company was placed in the program in 2011. OSHA's severe violator program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

The company, which is headquartered in Canton, employs approximately 2,500 workers companywide and 600 at the Canton mill. Other Republic Steel mills are located in Massillon and Lorain, Ohio, and Blasdell, N.Y.

The Canton plant has been inspected by OSHA 16 times, which resulted in one willful, two repeat, 22 serious and 23 other-than-serious final order citations. As a corporate entity, Republic Steel has been inspected 79 times resulting in the issuance of six willful, 15 repeat, 145 serious and 70 other-than-serious final order citations.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and notice of proposed penalties to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. If the company does not file or contest within that period, it must abate the cited conditions within the period ordered in the citations and pay the proposed penalties.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

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