Less than a year and a half after reaching a settlement with OSHA for safety violations at its Lorain, Ohio, steel mill, Republic Steel is in the agency's crosshairs again.
OSHA earlier this week said it has cited the steelmaker for 24 safety violations at the company's Canton, Ohio, mill. The citations – which include 15 willful violations – carry $1.1 million in fines.
"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," said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.
'Seriousness of Inaction'
OSHA said it received a formal complaint from the United Steelworkers alleging inadequate fall protection and other unsafe practices in the plant's melt shop.
When the agency opened an inspection in February, OSHA discovered that two workers had been seriously injured in falls at the Canton steel mill in June and August 2012.
OSHA cited the company for 15 willful violations, for allegedly failing to provide fall protection in the mill.
"We have tried to work jointly with Republic to avoid these violations," said Dave McCall, director of the United Steelworkers' Ohio district. "However, it is obvious that some in management do not understand the seriousness of inaction."
Among the violations alleged by OSHA were a lack of fall protection on runway girders that were 66 feet above the ground, and missing and damaged guardrails at heights of 30 feet.
Workers were 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, according to OSHA.
The agency also cited the Canton steel plant for two repeat violations and eight serious violations.
The eight alleged serious violations included tripping hazards; the use of electrical panels not suitable for wet locations; lack of PPE for employees working around the furnace; and failure to train workers on hazards and issue-entry permits for confined spaces.
Chad McClimans, director of EHS at Republic Steel, said the company "takes these allegations seriously."
"We are currently reviewing the alleged citation items to determine an appropriate course of action,” McClimans said in an email. He also said the steelmaker "is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace for our employees."
In 2011, after a Republic Steel employee was seriously injured in a fall at the company's Lorain facility, OSHA cited the company for seven willful violations and three repeat violations.
An April 2012 settlement affirmed three willful violations of fall-protection standards and three repeat violations of lockout/tagout standards.
As part of the settlement, Canton-based Republic Steel agreed to pay $235,000 in fines and pledged to hire full-time EHS managers and improve safety training.
The steelmaker has been in OSHA's severe-violator enforcement program since 2011, according to OSHA.
Under the program, which "focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations," OSHA can inspect any of Republic Steel's facilities "if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations."
OSHA has conducted 79 inspections at various Republic Steel facilities, resulting in six willful, 15 repeat, 145 serious and 70 other-than-serious final citations, according to the agency.
"Republic Steel has a long history of OSHA violations and disregard for employee safety and health," Michaels said.