Rampant health and safety violations at four plants owned by Republic Steel have resulted in a fine of more than $2.4 million against the company. Officials with the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration reported the hefty fine is the result of more than 100 violations at the firm’s various plants, including a fall through a roof, an arc flash incident and a plethora of serious fall hazards.
Charlotte work injury lawyers understand the company has agreed to immediate abatement of all existing hazards, and the implementation of several policies and procedures to ensure those risks don’t arise again. In the event of substantial non-compliance with any part of the agreement, the company agreed to pay even larger fines.
OSHA began intense inspections of the Ohio-based firm after a worker fell through the roof at one factory location. At that same location, a worker was injured in an arc flash incident. At another site, the number of fall hazards were high, according to safety inspectors.
The steel plant administrators attempted to downplay the issues that had been uncovered, indicating that the citations were received after an “unprecedented” inspection process that involved nearly two dozen inspectors over the course of two-and-a-half months. The company indicated that given the “enormous size of our facilities,” violations were practically inevitable. However, they did concede they were not aware of a number of issues, and those were corrected promptly. The current owners say when they purchased the plants in 2005, they invested more than $700 million in upgraded safety equipment and policies.
That’s good, of course, but neither the size of the building nor the significant investment excuse the kind of hazards that put workers’ lives on the line. The fact that OSHA stepped up and conducted a thorough review of this sizable facility should not be viewed as an attack on the business, but rather an important stand for worker protections – especially given that workers had already been seriously hurt.
In fact, the firm has a long history of safety violations.
In September, the worker that fell through the roof had to be hospitalized after slipping at the billet caster water treatment building, which is about 40 years old.
Prior to last year, the firm reached a $235,000 settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor for worker safety violations. It was also required to hire a full-time health and safety manager for each of its plants.
In April 2012, the company reached a $143,000 settlement with OSHA for “repeat” and “willful” safety violations – 13 in all. One of those involved a worker who broke his pelvis after falling nine feet.
Back in 2007, a 35-year-old worker was killed after slipping off a narrow ledge.
Then in February, while the OSHA investigation was ongoing, a 62-year-old brakeman on a train crew for the company was killed while riding on the side of the train car to deliver scrap to the mill. The single train car hit a set of parked train cars, and he was pinched between two set of cars, dying on impact.
Companies with this kind of worker safety history must be carefully monitored and held accountable.
If you have been injured at work in Charlotte, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
US Labor Department and Republic Steel reach comprehensive settlement agreement over safety and health violations at 4 plants, April 28, 2014, Press Release, Occupational Safety & Health Administration
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