USX Corp.'s steelmaking division agreed yesterday to pay a record $3.25 million fine for hundreds of alleged worker-safety violations at two Pennsylvania plants.

The fine was less than half the $7.3 million the Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a year ago against USX for 2,000 alleged safety violations, including what the government called fatal, uncorrected hazards.

The original penalty was the largest ever proposed by OSHA; the $3.25 million settlement was the largest worker-safety fine ever collected by the government.

Thomas W. Sterling, vice president for employee relations at the steelmaking division of USX, said the company agreed to pay the huge fine, in part, to avoid lengthy and expensive court battles fighting the government's allegations.

"We continue to believe that both Clairton Works and Fairless Works are safe plants . . . ," Sterling said in a statement issued by the Pittsburgh-based company.

Clairton Works, near Pittsburgh, and Fairless Works, near Philadelphia, were the two steel plants originally at issue in OSHA's complaint.

United Steelworkers of America, the union representing about 18,000 USX workers, said the agreement "confirms the union's contentions that USX willfully allowed safety and health conditions in its facilities to deteriorate to such a point that workers were in serious danger."

The citations stemmed from OSHA inspections that began in 1989 after complaints from the union and employees. OSHA said there had been three worker fatalities at the two plants in the two years leading up to the inspections and 17 such deaths since 1972.