Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel has agreed to pay a $227,000 fine to settle citations for safety violations at its Follansbee, West. Va., plant's coke ovens, OSHA has announced.

During inspections between Oct. 14 and Dec. 14, 2004, OSHA found 24 violations of occupational health standards, including exposure of employees to unsafe levels of coke oven emissions.

Wheeling-Pittsburgh agreed to make sure that all employees exposed to coke oven emissions are protected by engineering controls and respiratory gear. The company also must prove to OSHA that it has repaired air filtration systems on the coke oven batteries.

Other violations included:

  • Coke oven batteries were not properly operated or maintained.

  • Employees were not properly trained to use respiratory equipment.

  • Adjustments on cranes were not maintained properly.

  • Thorough monthly inspections were not performed on running ropes.

  • Portable fire extinguishers were not where they should be or properly maintained.

  • Electric outlets did not have proper covers and cords were not used properly.

  • Platforms did not have proper railing and some floor holes were not properly covered.

  • Permits allowing entry into certain confined areas did not properly identify hazards in the space or identify attendants.

    Wheeling-Pittsburgh must prove that all employees who perform certain tasks on the batteries receive annual training and it must train all managers, supervisors and foremen on coke oven standards within 90 days.

    "This settlement shows the company is serious about improving working conditions at their facility," Stan Elliott, area director of OSHA's Charleston office, told the Associated Press.

    The company also agreed to hire a consultant that OSHA's Charleston office approves of within 90 days to do an OSHA compliance assessment. The company must fix any problems the consultant finds by Dec. 31.

    Wheeling-Pittsburgh must hire the consultant to do similar assessments in 2006 and 2007 and report on abatement measures to OSHA both years.

    "Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel is committed to providing a safe work environment for its employees. We have worked cooperatively with OSHA both during and following the inspections and we expect to be in compliance with all but one issue by the end of July," company spokesman Jim Kosowski told the Associated Press.

    The company is having trouble getting parts to fix certain equipment, but that issue will be resolved by December, Kosowski said.

    Wheeling-Pittsburgh employs 3,100 people in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, including 350 at the Follansbee plant.