Steel Mills

Steel Mills: Protecting People and Operations

Written by Sandy Williams

Steel mills in the U.S. are taking precautions to reduce risks to workers and operations from the coronavirus pandemic as production continues. Social distancing and proper hygiene/sanitation is encouraged, non-essential business travel is cancelled, air travel is banned and those personnel who can perform their jobs remotely are allowed to do so.

Visitors are limited or prohibited at most facilities and vendors are asked to ensure their employees are healthy before sending them to the mills.

ArcelorMittal operations personnel are required to report as scheduled, but are advised to contact their manager if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

“The impact of the COVID-19 crisis across all sectors of the economy and industries is evolving rapidly and the steel industry is no different,” said a spokesperson for the company. “Currently, ArcelorMittal USA/NA is focused on taking all necessary precautions to protect the health and well-being of our employees, contractors, vendors and customers.

“We are only beginning to understand the full impact of COVID-19 on the end markets that our products and customers serve due to the rapidly evolving market implications and unknown duration of this crisis. As we continue to engage in conversations with our customers and market dynamics become clearer, we will be better positioned to address the actions that may be required to align our production with customer demand.”

Steel Dynamics said it is too early to determine the scope of the impact from the virus, but the steelmaker is expecting order activity to diminish in the coming weeks. “We have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation and have implemented additional policies and procedures to protect our teams from exposure and to ensure uninterrupted service to our customers,” said CEO Mark Millett. “Our commitment is to the safety of our people, families, communities, and to meet our customers’ needs.”

U.S. Steel reports that operations are continuing as normal with contingency plans in place to activate as circumstances warrant. The company is not experiencing issues in the U.S. with delivery of essential materials.

“The coronavirus does, however, highlight general supply chain vulnerabilities, which is a primary reason why we believe a strong domestic steel industry is needed,” said a spokesperson for U.S. Steel. “Products that are made and used domestically are more sustainable since they avoid national security risks, supply disruptions and the environmental cost of transoceanic shipment.”

SSAB Americas says that it does not anticipate any disruption to production and is taking appropriate measures as warranted. “We have taken several internal actions to date, such as restricting employee travel, increasing sanitation practices, and limiting in-person meetings and on-site visitors,” said a spokesperson for the company. “As always, our top priorities remain the safety of our workforce and our commitment to our customers.”

Commercial Metals Company CEO Barbara Smith noted in today’s Q2 FY 2020 earnings call that CMC is designated as a “critical infrastructure industry with a duty to maintain operations.” The company is following government guidelines including suspending air travel, rotating shifts and working from home when possible. Construction customers are keeping job sites open as long as they can, supporting steel operations and keeping products flowing. CMC said it will make supply side adjustments as necessary.

CMC maintains a small office in China where employees are safe but were self-quarantined for several weeks. The China staff says production activity is ramping back up at a fast pace and, if the same pattern follows, Smith expects a quick industry recovery in the U.S. as well.

Nucor also finds supply chain and operational disruption to be minimal so far. “However, more severe impacts are probable as economic activity is disrupted by construction sites being shut down in some major cities and other business interruptions,” said the company. “It is too early to gauge how significant those impacts will be for the balance of the year. We are carefully monitoring this evolving situation. Additionally, we are monitoring the recent volatility in the commodity and financial markets, and any potential future impacts on our operations and on those of our suppliers and customers.”

Nucor Tubular sent a letter to customers and vendors to advise them of precautions the company is taking during the pandemic. Nucor Tubular is not expecting any direct impact from the virus to production, but will keep customers apprised during the fluid situation.

“These are extraordinary times calling for each and every business to institute procedures that are responsive to the changing conditions,” said Nucor Tubular. “We remain focused on supporting our customers’ business needs. We encourage you and your family to take the necessary precautions to remain safe during this time.”

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