Oregon Steel Mills (Portland)

Oregon Steel Mills in Portland, Oregon, has been in continuous operation since 1928, and has carried its current name since 1987. Founded by William G. Gilmore, the company produced flat rolled steel for a variety of industrial contractors, and participated in World War II by supplying bulk product for the naval fleet. It was purchased by the Evraz Group S.A., a Russian steel giant, for approximately $2.3 billion in 2007. The company operates today as a subsidiary of the North American division of Evraz.

Oregon Steel Mills operates a number of different separate plants at its main facility, including a large rolling plate mill, a steel tube mill that specializes in spiral pipe for oil and natural gas transport, and a structural tubing mill that makes products for the construction industry. Oregon Steel Mills owns and operates a facility in Colorado known as the Rocky Mountain Steel Subsidiary that has three separate manufacturing locations. The first produces steel rails for the railroad industry, the second makes rods and rebar for construction purposes, and the third manufactures seamless pipes. The Colorado facility became part of the company when it was purchased by Oregon Steel Mills in 1993. Overall, the company employs about 2,000 workers and has annual revenues in excess of $1.2 billion.

Typical of steel and iron works in the United States and elsewhere, the Oregon Steel Mills facilities once relied heavily on the use of asbestos at its manufacturing facilities. Over a century ago, asbestos was found to be a material that provided excellent insulating qualities and worked extremely wall as a fire retardant. Because it was inexpensive to mine and process, asbestos found its way into the Oregon Steel Mills manufacturing plants as a wrapping for steam pipes and electrical conduit, as a part of fire-resistant wall and ceiling panels, and even part of the clothing worn by factory workers. Asbestos fibers can easily be integrated into gloves, aprons and even masks, and although this proved quite effective as a heat shield, it also meant that asbestos fibers were often free-floating in the confined atmosphere at Oregon Steel Mills indoor facilities. The removal of asbestos from Oregon Steel Mills was a step in the right direction, but former employees may have symptoms of asbestos exposure from decades past.