An El Paso steel company could be fined roughly $364,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor for alleged repeated violations leading to employee injuries, including an amputation.
In October 2021, a worker at Vinton Steel was treated for second-degree burns on his left hand, a report from the department's Office of Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) states. In January, a worker at the metal fabricator suffered an amputation injury. Those are just two of the 10 worker safety incidents reported at Vinton Steel in the last five years, the report stated.
The Department of Labor intervened Thursday, placing Kyoei Steel LTD, Vinton Steel's parent company, on its list of worst offenders. The Severe Violator Enforcement Program is for companies that have repeatedly failed to correct serious safety hazards. OSHA gave Vinton Steel until May 3 to contest the citation or to correct 19 safety violations and pay $364,078 in fines.
“Placement in OSHA’s Severe Violator Program is a designation given to employers that show disregard for employee safety and health,” said OSHA El Paso-area director Diego Alvarado Jr. “The company needs to immediately evaluate its facility for safety and health hazards, implement safety procedures and train workers on how to follow those procedures.”
Kyoei Steel LTD is based in Osaka, Japan, and operates as Vinton Steel in El Paso. Vinton Steel is at 8001 Border Steel Road in Vinton, Texas. The company has about 400 employees, who are represented by United Steelworkers Local 9424.
The Border Steel Company built the plant in 1962. Kyoei Steel LTD acquired Vinton Steel in December 2016. The parent company also owns facilities in Houston, Dallas and Monterrey, Mexico.
Vinton Steel has not responded to requests by phone and email for comment.
Serious violations put worker safety at risk
In a 34-page Citation and Notification of Penalty document, the OSHA El Paso office outlined 19 violations of federal workplace safety law found during inspections at Vinton Steel.
OSHA opened the investigation after being notified of the worker who suffered second-degree burns in October 2021. The agency determined the burns resulted from oxygen leaked from the hose of a heat torch, causing a fire flash in the facility's roll and bearing shop.
Employee complaints continued to surface: on Jan. 26, OSHA received a report that employees were forced to jump three feet from a ladder onto a crane platform with no safety rail.
In the 10 worker safety incidents in five years, there have been five amputation injuries, OSHA stated.
The laundry list of violations includes two repeat and serious violations: for lack of fall protection and lack of point-of-operation guarding on machinery. The fine for each of these repeat violations is $79,761.
The first-time violations categorized as serious included lack of fire protection and failure to inspect fire extinguishers and electrical hazards. Other violations included that the employer did not ensure that ladders had side rails. The company did not perform fit tests on respirators, exposing employees to respiratory hazards including cancer. Vinton Steel was cited for not ensuring welders wore proper gloves, exposing them to burns.
On its website, Vinton Steel claims, "Every day, we are committed to creating a culture that promotes and improves the safety of our workplace."
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: OSHA places Vinton Steel on list of repeat offenders, levies $364,000 in fines