After seven months of settlement negotiations between Republic Steel, OSHA and the USW, an agreement was signed on April 28, which is especially meaningful as that day is Workers’ Memorial Day.
Republic Steel has agreed to pay $2.4 million and rectify safety and health violations at four of its facilities. The Canton, Ohio-based steelmaker has agreed to correct more than 100 alleged OSHA violations “and implement numerous safeguards” at its Ohio plants in Lorain, Canton and Massillon and at its facility in Blasdell, N.Y., promising to pay additional fines if “there is a determination of substantial non-compliance with the agreement,” according to OSHA.
“This is a terrific agreement, and it clearly shows the value of strong OSHA enforcement,” said David McCall director of USW District 1 in Ohio and chair of the union’s Republic Steel bargaining committee. “We commend both OSHA and Republic for their willingness to work toward a settlement that puts the safety and health of Republic employees first. This new program gives us the tools to correct problems and creates a model system for preventing injuries and illnesses. It will lead to a safer company and to a stronger one.”
OSHA said it opened its inspection in fall 2013, after an employee was seriously injured after falling through the roof of a building at the Lorain plant. The agreement also settled contested citations from two previous inspections regarding a June 2013 arc-flashing incident in Lorain and an August 2013 case alleging fall hazards at the Canton facility.
The violations cited in the fall inspection included failures to provide fall protection, to implement lockout procedures, and to properly guard machines to protect workers from dangerous equipment.
The settlement includes a very comprehensive injury and illness prevention program that goes far beyond simple compliance with OSHA standards, the USW said.
Under the program, Republic and the USW will work together to find and fix workplace hazards. The program will be overseen by strengthened joint safety and health committees in the plants and by a high-level Executive Steering Committee made up of union and company leaders and safety experts.
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/tagout), fall protection, PPE 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.
- Providing supplemental training for all production and maintenance employees, including managers.
"The terms of this agreement to improve conditions and training are unprecedented," OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels said. "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."