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ArcelorMittal fined $10,000 for safety violations at Indiana Harbor steel mill

ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor. 

Indiana is fining the ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor steel mill in East Chicago $10,000 for safety violations after steelworkers were allegedly exposed to lead and cadmium.

The Indiana Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that a baghouse operator was exposed to lead dust at 20 times the permissible exposure limit and cadmium dust at 14 times the limit for eight hours in the Main Stack Baghouse at the mill. The state agency is seeking $5,000 for each exposure.

The state's citations order ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor to develop a plan for controlling employee exposures to hazardous substances such as lead and cadmium. IOSHA is mandating "an evaluation of engineering/administrative control options; selection of optimum control methods and completion of design; procurement, installation and operation of selected control measures; and testing and acceptance or modification/redesign of controls."

"All proposed control measures shall be approved for each particular use by a competent industrial hygienist or other technically qualified person," the state said in a safety order. "30-day progress reports are required during the abatement period."

By July 5, ArcelorMittal must select engineering and administrative controls to limit steelworker exposures to lead and cadmium at the mill, according to IOSHA's order. By Sept. 5, the control measures must be put in place.

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ArcelorMittal has been working with the state to resolve the issues, ArcelorMittal spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford said.

"ArcelorMittal has robust programs in place within all of its U.S. operations to address workplace exposures in compliance with OSHA standards," Holdford said. "While we cannot comment on the specifics of this pending matter, we are working with IOSHA to resolve the citations."

Inspectors also determined ArcelorMittal potentially exposes employees to lead after steelworkers disposed of refuse in a steel box behind the Main Stack Baghouse that contained white tyvek suits worn as protection in lead-regulated areas. ArcelorMittal also failed to label the box with a mandatory health and safety warning. The warning reads: "DANGER: CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT CONTAMINATED WITH LEAD. MAY DAMAGE FERTILITY OR THE UNBORN CHILD. CAUSES DAMAGE TO THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM. DO NOT EAT, DRINK OR SMOKE WHEN HANDLING. DO NOT REMOVE DUST BY BLOWING OR SHAKING. DISPOSE OF LEAD CONTAMINATED WASH WATER IN ACCORDANCE WITH APPLICABLE LOCAL, STATE, OR FEDERAL REGULATIONS."

ArcelorMittal has a period of 15 days to either pay the state's fine or contest it. Holdford declined to comment on if ArcelorMittal is mounting any challenge to the alleged safety violations.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.