United States Steel Corp. has been cited by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for a willful violation and seven serious violations after the explosion at its Fairfield plant that killed two workers and injured a third last year. OSHA’s report into the incident said the was caused by opening and closing a high-pressure valve that contained oxygen and hydrated lime, with the furnace still in operation.
“Management knew that attempting to operate the valve while the furnace was still running placed workers at risk, yet they allowed them to do it because they didn’t want the production line down for hours,” said Ramona Morris, OSHA’s area director in Birmingham, in a release. “This employer chose productivity over the safety of its workers, and two people died as a result of this decision.”
The seven serious citations are for not developing a procedure to prevent the furnace from releasing hazardous energy while workers performed maintenance, missing exit signs, an improperly installed exit gate and not training workers to recognize hazardous conditions with the oxygen system, the report said.
US Steel has 15 days to respond to the citations and the penalties total $107,900.
The company responded to the citations:
“U. S. Steel has received and is reviewing the citations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following its investigation of the September 21, 2014 incident at our Fairfield Works in Birmingham, Ala… U. S. Steel has a long-standing commitment to the safety and health of the men and women who work for our company. Safety is a primary core value and something we take very seriously. We have worked cooperatively with OSHA and the United Steelworkers throughout the investigation and will continue to work with them going forward.”
The news came on the same day the company announced it would close its Granite City, Illinois plant, resulting in 2,080 layoffs.
The company announced in January it would adjust operations at three locations in Alabama and Texas, resulting in around 1,800 layoffs in Alabama, including the idling of the Fairfield plant.