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US Labor Department and Republic Steel reach comprehensive settlement agreement over safety and health violations at four plants
CANTON, Ohio — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced that Republic Steel has agreed to settle alleged health and safety violations at the company's facilities in Lorain, Canton and Massillon, Ohio, as well as Blasdell, N.Y. The comprehensive settlement, in which the company agrees to abate all cited hazards and implement numerous safeguards to prevent future injuries, addresses more than 100 safety and health violations found by OSHA at the company's facilities during inspections conducted in the fall of 2013. The agreement also resolves contested citations from two previous inspections regarding a June 2013 arc flash incident at the Lorain facility and a case alleging numerous fall hazards at the company's Canton facility that OSHA issued in August of 2013.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Republic Steel has agreed to pay $2.4 million, and has further agreed on additional penalty amounts in the event there is a determination of substantial non-compliance with the agreement. The company has agreed to abate all safety and health hazards identified by OSHA, including willful and serious violations for failure to provide required fall protection, failure to implement lockout/tag out procedures to protect workers who service or maintain machines, and failure to provide machine guarding to protect workers from hazardous machinery.
In addition to abating the cited hazards, Republic Steel has agreed to several additional measures to improve compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and better protect its employees. Republic Steel will: hire additional safety and health staff; conduct internal safety and health inspections with representatives of the United Steelworkers; establish and implement a comprehensive safety and health management program to identify and correct hazardous working conditions; hire third-party auditors to assure that hazards are identified and improvements are made; and meet quarterly with OSHA staff to assure implementation of this agreement.
OSHA initiated the inspections last fall in response to a serious injury after an employee fell through the roof of a building at the Lorain plant. OSHA expanded its inspections to all Republic Steel's facilities under the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"By agreeing to the terms of this settlement, Republic Steel has demonstrated a commitment to change its culture, invest in its employees, and work with OSHA and the United Steelworkers to make significant changes at its facilities that will improve the safety and health of its workers," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "The Labor Department looks forward to working with Republic Steel to ensure that it lives up to its commitment to improve workplace safety."
In addition to improvements noted, Republic Steel has agreed to several key changes in the management of its safety and health program, including:
- reviewing and improving plant procedures to ensure OSHA compliance with machine guarding, control of hazardous energy (lockout/tag out), fall protection, personal protective equipment and other critical safety procedures;
- implementing an electronic tracking system for identifying hazards/near misses, injuries and illnesses reported by workers;
- mailing a letter to workers' families detailing the company's commitment to health and safety;
- providing a card to employees informing them of the right to refuse to perform work that they reasonably and in good faith believe is unsafe or unhealthful without fear of being disciplined; and
- providing supplemental training for all production and maintenance employees, including managers.
"The terms of this agreement to improve conditions and training are unprecedented," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. "The company has committed to supporting extensive worker participation, an important role for the joint health and safety committee, and implementation of a comprehensive safety and health program to better protect Republic Steel employees."
A copy of the settlement agreement is available at http://www.osha.gov/CWSA/RepublicSteel05012014.pdf. The agreement's Appendix A is available at http://www.osha.gov/CWSA/RepublicSteel05012014AppendixA.pdf and its Appendix B is available at http://www.osha.gov/CWSA/RepublicSteel05012014AppendixB.pdf.
To ask questions; obtain compliance assistance; file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
Under the OSH Act, 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. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.