Why You Might Not Want to Step on That Steel Grating

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A recent trade case involving steel grating products from China has just taken on a new dimension by raising potentially serious safety concerns about Chinese imports.

In a typical dumping case, US industry has to prove itself as being harmed by imports. In this steel grating case, just announced in the Federal Register last week, the ITC found that all Chinese producers of steel grating dumped their products and received substantial governmental subsidies. Anti-dumping margins came in between 136.76-145.18 percent, according to American Metal Market.

Okay, you may say, why should we care? Well, in this case, the domestic steel grating industry submitted a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requesting an investigation into “Chinese steel grating installed and held in inventory in the United States, according to a press release.

The US Department of Commerce revealed that the grating manufacturers from China, their hot-rolled coil producer/suppliers, or both, falsified the mill test certificates for these products! What does this mean? It means any fire escapes, catwalks, walkways, stairs, mooring docks, overhead sign platforms, bridge sidewalks and airplane unloading ramps (just a few examples) that have been built from 2006 to 2010 could be made from Chinese imported material that does not meet ANSI and NAAMM  (National Association of Architectural Metal Manufacturers) standards. There could also be Chinese grating in inventory not up to specifications.

According to the letter sent to OSHA and the CPSC, “the potential consequences of using steel with unknown chemical properties in steel grating are extremely serious, and could lead to a catastrophic failure of the Chinese steel grating. For example, if the steel used in the steel grating has carbon and other elemental levels different than those required by ANSI and NAAMM standards, the strength and load-bearing capability of the grating would be affected. In addition, the use of carbon levels different than those required by ANSI and NAAMM could affect the welding of the load-bearing bars and cross bars of the grating. Although the grating could appear to be sound when purchased, the welding crack following installation, again potentially leading to catastrophic failure.

The case is unusual for a couple of reasons, according to Tim Brightbill, partner at the law firm of Wiley Rein LLP, attorneys for the US producers. “First, the DOC  specifically found that the Chinese company had withheld information and concealed that it created mill test certificates that are unreliable,” he said. Second, Brightbill warns, “If you are buying from China, or from a US fabricator that buys from China, you should make sure the grating is meeting these standards.

The concern now of course involves exactly where and who has this material. Though we’d probably be sued for publishing the list, there are publicly available means of tracking which distributors, fabricators or end-users brought in this material. Tracking where the material has been installed is quite another matter, hence the letter to OSHA. The CPSC on the other hand can recall, seize or condemn the products, as it did in a massive investigation of Chinese drywall products, according to Brightbill.

The controversy in this anti-dumping case does not appear to reside only in product safety (though one might argue it certainly elevates the importance of the case). Some, such as AIIS (the American Institute for International Steel) have suggested that the ITC pretty much “rubber stamps any anti-dumping case brought to it against China, according to a recent AMM story. We asked Brightbill for his thoughts on that statement, to which he told MetalMiner, “The ITC is not a rubber stamp of anything.  And in this case, the Chinese producers and the government of China did not even show up at the hearings or submit any evidence to the Commission. It’s outrageous that they should complain when they didn’t make their case to the Commission.

We tend to agree. We’d welcome any and all reader comments, particularly those from the AIIS.

–Lisa Reisman

Comments (2)

  1. pk says:

    “The CPSC on the other hand, can recall, seize or condemn the products, as it did in a massive investigation of Chinese drywall products, according to Brightbill.”

    This is misleading. The CPSC did little but study the toxic Chinese drywall issue. There has been no recall of product, and homeowners have been left to date with no assistance at all and no real options. Litigation has ruled against the Chinese manufacturers and established a remediation protocol, but trying to collect from the Chinese government is an interesting problem all of its own. (Good luck with that one!)

    Does anyone have an extra $125,000 to give me to repair my house? I certainly don’t have it, and there is no insurance coverage for this either. Many want to blame the homeowners for this, but we had our home inspected before we purchased it. Back then no one had heard of the Chinese drywall problem, and it does not show symptoms for anywhere from 6 to 18 months or more (but seems to accelerate once it starts).

    In the end, I believe that the banks will end up with these toxic homes and they will be recycled indefinitely as unsuspecting buyers learn they purchased a toxic house in a foreclosure sale and they dump it on the next unwary purchaser. It will be a vicious circle.

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