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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

REPUBLIC STEEL FACES FINES FOR SAFETY VIOLATIONS

FROM:  U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT 
Republic Steel faces fines of $1.1 million for 24 safety violations; company previously agreed to address hazards in 2012 OSHA settlement

CANTON, Ohio — 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.

"People working hard to provide for their families should not have worry each day whether they'll come home," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "Republic Steel put their workers' lives in danger, and that kind of disregard for safety will not be tolerated."

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.

"Republic Steel has a long history of OSHA violations and disregard for employee safety and health," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational 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 diligent in its commitment to protect America's steel workers."

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.