STEUBENVILLE - Officials with United Steelworkers Local 1190 said while the number of fatal and serious injuries in their work place has diminished over the years, workers and employers must be vigilant in ensuring work place conditions are safe.
In observance of Worker Memorial Day, union officials and members and other local leaders and residents gathered at the union hall on South Third Street Friday to remember workers who had been killed at the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel plant.
Many wore black armbands distributed by Joann Pizzino, president of USW Local 4195, which represents nurses, guards and clerical employees with the steel mill.
A TIME TO REMEMBER —Tom Costello, a retired Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel employee and longtime member of United Steelworkers Local 1190, led a prayer for the families of fallen workers at the Ohio Valley Steelworker statue at the intersection of state Route 7 and University Boulevard as part of the union's observance of Worker Memorial Day on Friday. -- Warren Scott
During the service at the union hall, Christ Vergitz, acting president of Local 1190, read the names of many killed at Wheeling-Pitt facilities. They included Ken Cesaro, Anthony Colabella, Tony DiCarlantonio, William Druschel, Joseph Faley, Clement Front, Richard Kimmons, Joseph LaSalle, Mike Mallas, Joseph Modrick, Robert Neavin, Fred Wizba and Steve Zamana.
Vergitz cautioned the list may not be complete, and Santo Santoro, chief staff representative for USW District 1 and former Local 1190 president, noted there have been many who have lost limbs or sustained other major injuries or disease in the work place.
He offered his condolences to those individuals and their families.
The services also included a visit to the Ohio Valley Steelworker monument at the intersection of state Route 7 and University Boulevard, where union leaders and family members of fallen steelworkers placed a wreath and roses.
They included Stella Druschel of Wheeling, whose 55-year-old son William died from a fall at the Mingo Junction plant in 2006; and Paul Cesaro of Wintersville, whose 54-year-old brother, Ken, died while working in the steel mill's railyard in 2005.
Paul Cesaro, who has chaired the union's safety committee for 39 years, said such fatalities underscore the need to maintain a safe work place and convey to workers the importance of following safe procedures.
"Unfortunately some improvements in safety have come through fatalities. We've learned through our investigations of deaths in the work place," he said.
The service is held each year near the anniversary of the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Ron Crownover of Steubenville, a 48-year Wheeling-Pitt employee who was laid off from the Mingo Junction plant three years ago, said safety conditions in the steel industry have improved a great deal over the years.
"I once wore a ballcap instead of a helmet and there were no safety glasses or respirators," he recalled.
"Safety's become an important issue and it should be. It's a dangerous job, no matter where you are in a steel mill," Crownover said, noting a steelworker could be working while a crane is operating overhead, heavy coils are being transported or molten metal is being processed.
"I believe the safety committee has done a good job, but there's always more to do," he said.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)