Twice in about a month, United States Steel Corp. gave seven employees tasks that exposed them to asbestos, a widely recognized hazard associated with serious and fatal health risks including lung cancer, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found.
During the first week of February 2016, at the company's coke production facility in Pittsburgh, five workers removed and replaced packing material containing asbestos at the direction of the company. In March 2016, OSHA found two other employees had burned and removed a rotted section of expansion pipe at the company's direction. The pipe later tested positive for asbestos.
This is the second time since 2011, that OSHA has cited U.S. Steel Corp. for exposing employees to asbestos hazards.
Responding to an employee complaint, OSHA opened an inspection on March 16, 2016, and identified 10 violations for which U.S. Steel Corp. faces $170,000 in penalties.
Inspectors found the company failed - as it did in 2011 - to establish a regulated area and inform employees of the presence of asbestos-containing material, conduct initial employee monitoring and ensure a negative exposure assessment, implement specific engineering controls and designate a qualified person to oversee the work and issued repeat citations. In addition, the employer used compressed air improperly in maintenance and repair operations, did not provide employee training or utilize appropriate containment and disposal methods.
"Once again, we have found U.S. Steel Corp. failed to protect its employees from the serious risks of asbestos exposure. Breathing airborne asbestos fibers can cause lung damage that often progresses to disability and possible death," said Christopher Robinson, director of OSHA's Pittsburgh Area Office. "Given the potential danger to the health of its workers, the company must take immediate steps needed to avoid its employees' prolonged exposure to asbestos."
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, U.S. Steel Corp. is an integrated steel producer with major production operations in North America and Central Europe and an annual raw steelmaking capability of 24.4 million net tons. The company manufactures a wide range of value-added steel sheet and tubular products for the automotive, appliance, container, industrial machinery, construction, and oil and gas industries. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.