California Steel Industries

A major producer of specialty steel products, California Steel Industries, Inc operates in the city of Fontana, located east of Los Angeles, and is a profitable distributor of fine steel parts and accessories, used chiefly in the construction industry. It was founded in 1984 when a group of investors led by Michael Wilkinson, Kawasaki Steel of Japan, and Rio Doce Ltd., a U.S. subsidiary of the Brazilian natural resources firm, bought out Kaiser Steel and its Fontana campus, reorganized the production facility, and began a slow and steady growth to become one of the largest producers of finished steel products in the nation.

California Steel began as a distributor of steel products, and although there was an attempt in the late 1990s to expand into a steel mill operation, this venture failed and the company continues to operate today as a manufacturer of finished products, using raw steel purchased from other mills. California Steel uses large slab steel and through a variety of mechanical operations, including specialized cutting, stamping and rolling procedures, turns out such products as oil and natural gas pipe, heating and air conditioning ducts, steel plating for machines, engines and appliances, as well as steel wheels and cutting blades.

The company also produces a tremendous amount of galvanized steel products, pickled and oiled steel used for automotive wheels and industrial metal strapping, and cold rolled steel plates used in electrical cabinetry for applications such as breaker panels. The 1993 expansion of the Fontana plant included a massive introduction of a modernized production line that allowed all of the above mentioned operations to be carried out at a single facility. Today, California Steel Industries imports raw material from Australia, Brazil, Japan and Mexico, as well as from European suppliers and mills in the United States.

For over a century, manufacturing facilities around the world used asbestos as a primary insulating material and general fire retardant. Kaiser Steel in California was a campus that utilized the protective properties of asbestos, and when California Steel Industries took over operations at this location, asbestos was still widely used to insulate against high heat and fire. Asbestos was also included in heat wraps for pipes, boiler equipment and electrical circuits. Unfortunately, workers exposed to free-floating asbestos fibers often inhaled this material, which is linked to lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Symptoms of asbestos-related illnesses often do not show for many years, and this is a prime concern for employees that worked for California Steel Industries in prior decades.