Frank Johnson Sr.’s wife said her husband had worried for four or five months before his death that “somebody is going to get killed” at work and he hoped “it ain’t me.” Now OSHA is investigating his death.
Johnson had worked at Republic Steel in Lorain, Ohio, for 45 years. Most recently, he was a brakeman on a train crew operating on the grounds of the steel mill.
On Feb. 14, that all came to an end.
Johnson was riding on the side of a train car delivering scrap to the mill. The single car was being pulled by a lone engine when it hit a set of parked train cars.
According to the mill’s union president, Johnson “got pinched between the two sets of cars. The other set of cars were apparently off the track a little.”
Johnson died immediately from multiple injuries.
OSHA has up to six months to investigate and decide whether Republic will face any citations and fines.
Republic isn’t a stranger to OSHA.
In 2011, the agency placed the steel manufacturer in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program which concentrates on inspecting companies that have “demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations.”
Just last year, OSHA fined Republic $1.1 million for 24 violations (15 willful, 1 repeat, 8 serious) at its Canton, Ohio, plant. The agency inspected the plant following a formal complaint from the United Steelworkers Union. Several of the citations were for fall hazards. While investigating, OSHA discovered two workers had been seriously injured in falls at the site in 2012.
On Nov. 30, 2013, a fire at the Lorain facility caused millions of dollars in damage to the plant. The facility is undergoing an $85 million upgrade including installation of a new arc furnace. The upgrade is expected to create 450 new jobs.
Johnson’s son also worked at the Lorain mill. On the day of his father’s death, Frank Johnson Jr. was working in the scrap yard. He said his father had been concerned about ice and snow on the train tracks and a lack of maintenance on very old train cars.