Select Page

Inspection records from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration showed EVRAZ steel mill, the site of an explosion in Pueblo on Saturday evening that left eight people hurt, had a history of “serious” violations for years.

EVRAZ’s violations spanned for over more than a decade with dozens of violations, several of which “were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees,” records showed.

Saturday’s explosion injured eight people, seven of whom were rushed to a hospital in a caravan of ambulances.

One employee remained at Parkview Medical Center and one worker remained at UCHealth’s burn unit in Aurora as of Wednesday morning, David Kenney, of the Kenney Group, a Denver company representing EVRAZ, said.

“This is a difficult time for all of us, we are saddened by the injuries to our team members and we will do everything we can to support them and their families through their recovery, while we work to identify and rectify the causes of this terrible event,” Kenney said in news release.

Saturday’s explosion was preceded by a 2017 safety violation citation, which alleged that “employees were exposed to explosion and struck by hazards.” The initial fine of $12,675 in Feb. 2017 was dropped to $8,500 after a settlement was reached in March 2017.

The warning and fine resulted after “maintenance, inspection and testing procedures” were not followed in November 2016, the report said.

Saturday’s explosion involved different equipment and a different part of the mill than 2017’s safety violation, Kenney said.

Federal records show other violations in 2016, 2015, and some dating as far back as 2008. Several violations in 2016 were “repeat” violations.

A worker died at the mill in April 2012 after he was hit and crushed by a truck, a report said.

Eric Ludwig, president for the Pueblo branch of the United Steelworkers Union said accidents are not uncommon at steel mills.

“It’s very possible when you have liquid steel,” Ludwig said. “This is always a risk that’s there.”

With its U.S. operations based in Chicago, EVRAZ is North America’s top producer of rail and large-diameter steel pipe, according to the company’s website. The firm also operates mines and mills in Russia, Canada, Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic.

The company’s annual report highlighted Pueblo’s mill as a primary focus for the company’s development with plans to update the facility to a long rail mill operation to replace the existing one.

“This project will modernize Pueblo’s rail making capability and enable the manufacture and welding of 100 meter rails,” the company report said.

Water leaked into a furnace that was melting steel resulting in the Saturday blast, David Light, EVRAZ Pueblo vice president of operations, told the Gazette this week.

The mill was working with federal investigators and the United Steelworkers Union to  to determine the exact cause of the incident, Kenney said.

The mill’s operations were put on hold until the investigation and a damage assessment can be completed, Kenney said.

Ludwig said taking care of the injured workers and their families is a joint effort between the company and the union, which includes the company’s Employee Assistance Program and the union’s Emergency Response Team.

“We’re working together to take care of the guys down there,” Ludwig said.

Seth Boster contributed to this report.

This content was originally published here.