California Steel

California Steel Industries in Fontana has focused on keeping workers employed and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.  (Contributed photo by San Bernardino County)

California Steel Industries (CSI), a steel processing and finishing company in Fontana, began operations in 1984. Today, the company is one of San Bernardino County’s largest employers and a leader in the region’s manufacturing industry.

CSI was deemed an essential business throughout the coronavirus shutdown and worked diligently to keep all of its 900 employees and small temporary workforce employed.

Fernando Barros, the executive vice president of finance and administration at CSI, noted how the company’s focus on health, safety and communications was important to its success throughout this pandemic.

He shared that CSI immediately established a crisis committee, including members from the executive team, human resources, plant protection, and safety as well as medical personnel from CSI’s on-site family health center.

In 2009, CSI began partnering with Kaiser Permanente to operate an on-site family health center for CSI employees and their dependents, staffed with a lead clinic physician and a rotating staff of doctors and nurses. The medical team handles healthcare needs for employees and their families that include general practitioner issues, lab work and vaccines, Employee Assistance Program counseling services and workplace OSHA physicals. Employees are even incentivized to schedule annual physical exams.

As Barros notes, it has been a tremendous benefit for CSI and over the years has helped to recognize some serious illnesses. The company's focus on health has paid off, as to date no CSI employees have contracted the coronavirus.

The CSI crisis committee helped establish new protocols for health and safety to accommodate Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. CSI also set up home office policies and created a temporary special paid personal leave policy, which has been a big help for at-risk populations who work at CSI as well as employees with children at home while schools are closed. New cleaning and sanitization protocols as well as temperature checks upon entry for all employees, vendors, drivers and guests have been ongoing measures since April.

“Communication was critical all along. We distributed a daily newsletter to all employees to make sure there was a lot of transparency and education with all the changes,” said Barros.

Looking ahead, CSI remains focused on its workforce and leading education and training initiatives, as well as continuing its support of the Industrial Technical Learning Center (InTech) that the firm helped to launch. The InTech Center is located on the CSI campus.

Despite rising costs and the challenges of new environmental regulations and rules, CSI is committed to San Bernardino County, Barros said.

“It’s important to have a healthy industry that provides jobs for blue collar workers. We have a great opportunity here in the Inland Empire,” Barros added. “We hope officials at the state and federal level remain sensitive to operations like us who have soldiered on, kept our workforce intact, and kept them safe because we’re all going through a recovery.”

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