OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed penalties totaling $1,015,000 against AK Steel Corp., Middletown, Ohio, following investigation of a flash fire last October in which one worker was killed and two others seriously burned.
Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich said, "Employers must realize that serious violations of safety and health standards will bring serious consequences. Strong action will be taken to preserve the safety and health of America's workplaces."
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Joseph A. Dear said, "AK Steel has a terrible safety and health record, with eight workers killed in the Middletown Works since October 1993. Hopefully, imposing these penalties will help turn AK Steel around and put it on the path to a safe workplace. We don't want any other workers unnecessarily exposed to fatal risks or serious workplace injuries."
Jerry Ball, a 49-year-old production worker, was fatally burned Oct. 4, 1995, in the flash fire; two maintenance employees also were seriously injured.
Following an investigation into the fire, OSHA cited AK Steel Corp. for 14 alleged willful and five alleged serious violations of OSHA's lockout/tagout safety standard. This standard requires employers to ensure that machinery or equipment is disconnected from its energy source and is inoperative before any repair, maintenance or servicing work begins.
The proposed penalty for each willful violation is $70,000, the maximum under the law. The total for the alleged willful violations is $980,000.
The proposed penalty for each alleged serious violation is $7,000. The total of proposed penalties for the serious violations is $35,000.
William M. Murphy, area director for the Cincinnati area OSHA office, said that OSHA currently has three other investigations under way in the Middletown facility.
One investigation involves another serious accident that occurred Dec. 5, 1995, when 14 workers were injured in an explosion of a gas pipeline for a blast furnace.
Immediately following the December 5th explosion, OSHA initiated a comprehensive expanded inspection, focusing on a review of the company's safety and health programs and procedures, including contractor safety procedures, and determining whether safety and health procedures were being followed.
A third investigation involves a review of the adequacy of the company's injury and illness records.
About 3,850 employees, represented by Armco Employees Independent Federation, are employed in the Middletown Works, an integrated steel mill. AK Steel has another 1,900 employees at a facility in Ashland, Ky.
Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.
A serious violation is defined as one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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