U.S. Steel Fined for Exposing Workers to Asbestos Hazards

Posted on August 16, 2016

In July, we reported on the charges a Dearborn, MI school district official faced after harassing an employee after she raised concerns over potential asbestos exposure. Now, thanks to a concerned employee at U.S. Steel, the company is facing nearly $200k in fines after exposing workers to asbestos hazards.

According to an Aug. 8 press release from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Region 3, workers at the Pittsburgh coke production facility were twice exposed to asbestos by tasks given to them by management, including removing and replacing packing material containing asbestos and by burning and removing a rotted section of expansion pipe that contained asbestos. These violations occurred during February and March of this year.

OSHA began an investigation after an employee complaint was filed. OSHA found 10 violations leaving U.S. Steel Corp. with $170,000 in penalties. 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, according to the statement.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 established OSHA with a mission “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” Laws, regulations and guidelines are put in place to keep U.S. workers safe. Companies that violate these requirements can face stiff fines and penalties for endangering innocent workers.

This is the second time since 2011, that OSHA has cited U.S. Steel Corp. for exposing employees to asbestos hazards, notes OSHA.

Christopher Robinson, director of OSHA’s Pittsburgh Area Office, issued the following statement on OSHA’s charges against U.S. Steel:

“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. 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.”

It cannot be said enough that asbestos is dangerous. It is a human carcinogen known to cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen, lung cancer, and other respiratory diseases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that there is no safe level of exposure.

OSHA reports that asbestos exposures tend to occur in the construction industry and in ship repair, particularly during the removal of asbestos materials due to renovation, repairs, or demolition. OSHA further adds, “Every occupational exposure to asbestos can cause injury of disease; every occupational exposure to asbestos contributes to the risk of getting an asbestos related disease.”

Mesothelioma is diagnosed in nearly 3,000 Americans each year. The disease has an extended latency period, often decades, and anyone exposed to the toxic mineral faces a lifelong risk of developing the terminal cancer.