LORAIN — Republic Steel will pay $2.4 million in a settlement announced Monday with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
The settlement includes safety violations at Republic’s Lorain plant, but is unrelated to the Feb. 14 death of worker Frank Johnson Sr. at the plant. The investigation into Johnson’s death is expected to be completed in about a month, according to Kimberly Nelson, OSHA Toledo office area director.
The agreement is less than half of the nearly $5.5 million initial fine against Republic which has annual revenue of about $100 million. About $1 million of the initial fine was for violations at the Lorain plant at 1827 E. 28th St. The Lorain violations were observed in September, about two months before a fire at the plant that the Fire Department said caused millions in damage. No one was hurt in the fire.
Since 1990, the Lorain plant has been inspected 30 times, according to Scott Allen, an OSHA spokesman with the agency’s Chicago office, which includes oversight of Ohio. The inspections resulted in 57 serious violations, 10 willful violations and 10 repeat violations. Despite Republic’s record, Allen said reducing the fine made sense.
“We’re extraordinarily encouraged by the fact that they’re willing to take responsibility for their historic bad safety record and make significant changes to that,” he said. “There is leeway in settlement discussions to allow us to reduce the penalty so that the company will turn around their safety program and do the right thing.”
The settlement said Republic, which has sales of $1 billion annually, is required to pay an additional $1.6 million if a court of appeals finds it didn’t make, “an objectively good faith effort” to comply. Among the settlement stipulations:
- More signs will be posted warning employees of hazards.
- Outside experts will be hired to make safety recommendations and Republic, “shall not intentionally curtail operations or production for the purpose of hindering or interfering with the inspection.”
- Employees shall receive cards stating they have the right to refuse work if they “reasonably and in good faith” believe it is unsafe and there will be no retaliation if they refuse.
- Quarterly safety meetings will be held between Republic and OSHA with members of United Steel Workers Local 1104 invited.
The settlement comes shortly after Republic’s electric arc furnace became operational. The furnace is part of an about $85 million upgrade at the plant that included about $5 million in state tax breaks and $5.9 million in Lorain tax breaks. The upgrade is supposed to create 450 jobs.
A news release from Ted Thielens Republic’s executive vice president, called the inspections “unprecedented.” In addition to Lorain, the inspections occurred at plants in Canton, Massillon and Blasdell, N.Y.
“Given the enormous size of the company’s facilities, OSHA found violative conditions, many of which the company was not aware,” the release said. “When these conditions were brought to the company’s attention, the company promptly took steps to correct them.”
Jaime Vigil, Republic CEO and president, said in the release that Republic’s owners have invested $700 million in the aging plants since buying them in 2005.
“We look forward to the continuation of our safety efforts and the implementation of the new items set forth in the settlement,” he said.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.
Before it reached a $2.4 million settlement announced Monday, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration initially fined Republic Steel nearly $5.5 million, including about $1 million in fines at Republic’s Lorain plant. Among the Lorain plant violations:
- $70,000 for lacking protective equipment that led to an approximately 47-foot fall by employee John Evanish from a water treatment building. Evanish broke four bones in his back, seven ribs and suffered four compound fractures in his left arm.
- $70,000 for lacking fall protection around a scrap chute.
- $70,000 for lacking railing above a furnace load table in the billet yard.
- $70,000 for lacking railing on a catwalk above a crane in the bar mill.
- $70,000 for unsafe horizontal lifelines to prevent falls from structural columns.
SOURCE: Occupational Health and Safety Administration