OSHA Slams Texas Steel Plant Hit with 2012’s Biggest Fine

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: March 8th, 2012
Topics: OSHA Inspections |

Steel Plant

March 7, 2012 – Everything is bigger in Texas, even the OSHA fines. Just ask the proprietors of JSW Steel (USA) Inc., the Baytown, TX-based employer that just got hammered for $469,000 worth of OSHA fines. (Click here to read the official OSHA news release of March 7, 2012.)

What Went Wrong?

A combination of things. First there were the circumstances of the inspection. JSW was in OSHA’s doghouse even before the latest round of trouble began:

  • In Nov. 2008, OSHA inspectors visited the plant and ended up citing JSW $146,500 for a bunch of violations;
  • Later, OSHA targeted JSW for inspection under its Site-Specific Targeting Program (SST) because of its high injury/illness rates;
  • In Sept. 2011, while conducting an SST inspection of the site, OSHA received fresh safety complaints  from JSW employees.

The Fines

For JSW, it was the perfect storm with a predictable outcome: 2 inspections and a laundry list of 36 OSHA violations, including $339,720 for 11 repeats stemming from the Nov. 2008 inspection.  The gory details:

Repeat Violation

Proposed Fine

Hazcom: No labels on drums containing hazardous chemicals


Falls: Oil and grease deposits approximately 0.5 inches thick on stairs leading to cab of crane and stairs leading to Bevel End Facer


Falls: No cover on large openings in furnace area and inside slab yard


Spray finishing  using flammables/combustibles: Donaldson filter housing not electrically bonded to legs, exposing employees to explosion of coating dust


LOTO: LOTO procedures for Bevel End Facer identify wrong electrical panel to lockout and didn’t say how to control hazards from stored hydraulic pressure


LOTO: Energy control procedures not periodically inspected.


Fire Extinguishers: 3 portable fire extinguishers placed on the ground rather than mounted; one fire extinguisher not fully charged


Slings: 2 wire rope slings with damage—one had kinking the other  bird caging—not  removed from service but kept available for use


Machine Guarding: Lack of point of operation guarding for Scale Reservoir, X-ray machine and along conveyor in coating booth


Mech. Power Transmission Apparatus: Chain operating closing roll for mill not enclosed


Elec. Wiring Methods: Lack of covers on conduit junction boxes and faceplates on electrical box outlets




It’s Not Over Yet for JSW

$469,000 is a big fine for OSHA. But it’s not just the fine amount that makes JSW’s situation so difficult. Forking over the money wouldn’t sting so much if JSW could turn the page and achieve closure.

The problem is that OSHA doesn’t believe in giving offenders a chance for a new start. Nowadays, committing an OSHA offense buys you at least 5 years of follow-up inspection purgatory. Sure enough, OSHA tagged JSW as a repeat offender subject to follow-up inspections under Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).

The JSW case is typical of what’s going on all around the country:

  • Stage 1: Company gets cited for violations and is subject to follow-up inspection for the next 5 years;
  • Stage 2: Company gets cited for repeat violations;
  • Stage 3: Because it’s a repeat offender, the company is thrown into SVEP.

And on it goes.

OSHA claims that targeting “recidivist” offenders is the most efficient use of enforcement resources; but while there are plenty of bad eggs out there, one has to wonder whether OSHA’s if-you-did-it-once-you’ll-probably-do-it-again approach is a self-fulfilling prophesy.


Click here to see how OSHA has been going after big companies for repeat violations

Click here to find out how to guard against the risk of repeat violations for multiple facilities


About The Author

Glenn Demby is an attorney that specializes in explaining complicated OSHA rules to safety managers in plain English.

Glenn serves as the editor and chief of Safety Smart Compliance