The cost of a hole in the roof

Oh, what a timely roofing job would have saved Republic Steel.

An employee clambering across the roof of one of Republic Steel's buildings in Lorain, Ohio, fell through a hole in the roof, sustaining serious injuries.

Out came inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a follow-up visit. What resulted was a thorough-going inspection not just of the Lorain facility, but of the company's plants in Canton and Massillon, Ohio, and Blasdell, N.Y.

Upshot: A rather quick settlement, by OSHA terms, that included an initial fine of $2.4 million, possible future fines should other terms of the settlement be violated, and a laundry list of steps to be taken by the company. Among them:

Fall prevention procedures

  • Tag-out/lockout procedures to protect those who service machinery.
  • Machine guarding to protect workers around factory equipment.
  • The hiring of additional safety and health staff.
  • Setting up safety and health inspections with members of the United Steelworkers of America.
  • Establishing a safety and health management program to identify and correct hazardous working conditions.

  • Hiring of third-party auditors to evaluate hazards and plans to address them.

  • Quarterly meetings with OSHA staff to assure all aspects of the agreement are implemented.

But that's not all. The company also agreed to make the following changes to the management of its safety and health program:

  • reviewing and improving plant procedures to ensure OSHA compliance with machine guarding, control of hazardous energy (lockout/tag out), fall protection, personal protective equipment and other critical safety procedures;

  • implementing an electronic tracking system for identifying hazards/near misses, injuries and illnesses reported by workers;

  • mailing a letter to workers' families detailing the company's commitment to health and safety;

  • providing a card to employees informing them of the right to refuse to perform work that they reasonably and in good faith believe is unsafe or unhealthful without fear of being disciplined; and

  • providing supplemental training for all production and maintenance employees, including managers.

    Perhaps one more step should be taken by the company: the hiring of a fulltime roof inspector.

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