Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, founded in 1991 in West Virginia, was established solely for the manufacture of steel products, including types of galvanized and fabricated steel, automotive parts, pre-engineered building systems, sheet products, and other steel products. Wheeling-Pittsburgh now has locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. In 2007, Wheeling merged with Esmark, and in August 2008, Severstal North America purchased Esmark. This merger expanded Wheeling-Pittsburgh’s reach to the international steel market, as it began to supply products to Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, France, Italy, Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Wheeling-Pittsburgh has experienced a variety of issues with regulations issued by government agencies and the safety and health of its workers. One issue involved its Follansbee-based plant. Since 1917, the plant has rested on 588 acres and has primarily produced the metallurgical-grade coke required for steel production. The EPA determined that the steel mill created hazardous levels of toluene, benzene, phenol, benz(a)anthracene, naphthalene, chrysene, and benzo(a)pyrene.
The Wheeling-Pittsburgh/Severstal company states that they do maintain safe worksites. In addition to complying with state and federal safety standards, the company also declares a strong desire for feedback from managers and workers to aid them in the improvement of any safety conditions. This kind of open environment in a business can lead to real and enduring improvements for steel workers, who possess a personal knowledge of what must be done to rectify potentially hazardous work situations.
Like so many business, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel suffered because of the recession. In May of 2009, Severstal International idled its Ohio and West Virginia mills because of the steel industry slowdown. More than 3,000 workers were affected by this decision. At first, they shut down galvanizing at Warren and hot-rolling operations at plants in Wheeling. Then they ceased all the work at Wheeling. In June of 2009, Severstal sold its Allenport, Pennsylvania mill used to finish sheet metal to North American Trading Co of California. The mill had remained idle since the purchase of Esmark by Severstal in August of 2008.
Because of its resistance to electrical current, heat, and flame, the fibrous, naturally occurring mineral known as asbestos often was utilized in almost all mills, factories, worksites, and power plants across the United States, including Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. Though asbestos’ insulating properties surely protected both property and people for a short time, the unforeseen results of its use devastated workers as thousands of them developed serious illnesses from exposure to it.