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McWane plant cited by OSHA

April 18, 2003
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McWane, Inc., an Alabama-based pipe manufacturer with one of the worst workplace safety records in America, has been fined $196,000 by OSHA for new violations at its largest plant, according to The New York Times.

Thirteen serious violations, four repeat violations and one minor violation occurred at Tyler Pipe, a large foundry with 1,200 employees in Tyler, Texas, 90 miles east of Dallas.

"OSHA is holding Tyler Pipe accountable for the well-being of their employees," John L. Henshaw, OSHA administrator, said in a written statement. "We expect them to step up to the plate and make their facility a safer place."

OSHA has cited McWane's plants for more than 400 safety violations since 1995.

In January, McWane was the subject of a series of articles and a television documentary by The New York Times, working in partnership with the PBS program, "Frontline," and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. program, "The Fifth Estate."

Since 1995, there have been more than 4,600 injuries at McWane plants. The company, which makes cast iron water and sewer pipes, employs about 5,000. Three workers were killed because the company willfully violated federal safety laws, OSHA inspectors found. The company has also amassed hundreds of environmental violations in that time.

G. Ruffner Page, president of the company, said in an interview with The Times that McWane had decided not to contest either the new violations or the fines. He said the company was working hard to improve safety by spending millions on new training and equipment, changing managers and hiring safety consultants.

"Like every business, every company," he said, "you have to change with the times."

In recent months, McWane employees have reported significant changes. Safety hazards once ignored are now dealt with promptly. Workers reporting injuries say they are no longer singled out for retaliation or dismissal.

"They have religion," Patrick Tyson, a former OSHA chief, told The Times. Tyson was recently hired as a consultant by McWane.

But Mr. Page acknowledged that the recent fines show that, "It takes a long time to turn around a 1,200-employee plant."

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