Nearly 650 people gathered in New York for a black-tie gala as the National Safety Council (NSC) presented its inaugural Green Cross for Safety medal to AK Steel Chairman Richard Wardrop Jr.
Andrew Sharkey, president of the American Iron and Steel Institute, spoke of the significance of Wardrop''s safety commitment to the steel industry.
"Leading by example, Dick Wardrop has revolutionized the way our industry looks at safety, and I am tremendously proud to be here to honor that accomplishment," said Sharkey. "We''ve seen what Mr. Wardrop''s unrelenting pursuit of excellence has done for AK Steel''s productivity and quality. How very fitting that he is honored for applying that same tenacity to employee and contractor safety."
NSC President Gerald Scannell, praised Wardrop for making safety the top operating priority for AK Steel, headquartered in Middletown, Ohio.
"It is not often, in our environment, that safety is given such a high corporate operating priority. We find it reflected in the intense focus on injury prevention by everyone who works at AK Steel, which results in an unusually fine and high commendable workplace safety record," said Scannell.
In accepting the award, Wardrop reflected on the importance of receiving the Green Cross award.
"I have been fortunate to have been at the helm of AK Steel when our company has been recognized for many prestigious awards," said Wardrop. "Make no mistake, this medallion will sit on the pinnacle of our wall of honor."
Wardrop said the safety council''s recognition truly belonged with all AK Steel employees.
"While I am flattered to be the individual here tonight accepting this award, I won''t for a moment pretend that it belongs to me," said Wardrop. This award belongs to me and 11,000 other AK Steel employees and those organizations and companies that support the success of AK Steel."
But the evening was not all praise and recognition. Outside the Waldorf-Astoria, where the ceremony took place, many who are against AK''s Steels prestigious safety award stood in protest.
Members of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) have been particularly concerned with NSC''s choice of Wardrop and AK Steel for the award since the Council announced its choice in July.
USWA said AK Steel''s commitment to safety is anything but long-standing.
Noting that the company is a major violator of both OSHA and EPA regulations, USWA pointed out various incidents that may support the accusation.
AK Steel and its contractor, Motorized Assisted Deliveries Inc., were assessed fines totaling $50,000 in July for numerous health and safety violations at the company''s Mansfield, Ohio plant.
In addition, the Department of Justice recently filed suit against AK Steel and accused the company''s Middletown, Ohio, plant of repeatedly violating federal air and waste pollution standards, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
"In light of these recent OSHA citations and AK Steel''s questionable environmental record, the NSC''s selection of Wardrop to receive its first-ever safety award raises serious questions," said Dave McCall, USWA District 1 director.
by Virginia Sutcliffe