MAPLETON, Ill. (WTRF) — Federal investigators executed a fine to Caterpillar, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of industrial vehicles and equipment, after a worker was killed by falling into a vat of molten iron, according to CBS News.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent investigators to the Mapleton, Illinois foundry on June 2 to conduct the inquiry about the employee’s death, the agency said in a press prelease.
The employee was “immediately incinerated” after falling into an 11-foot-deep pot of molten iron that was heated to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Steven Dierkes’ was the second death at the foundry in less than a year, according to the Peoria Journal Star. In December 2021, another employee died after falling more than 20 feet through a hole in the floor. In that case, OSHA cited two contractors for exposing workers to fall hazards.
Dierkes had only worked at the foundry for nine days when he died, OSHA said.
OSHA said, its agents determined the foundry exposed its employees to unprotected fall hazards, and that Dierkes may not have been killed if required safety guards and fall protection had been installed.
Dierkes was removing a sample of iron from the furnace when he fell into the melting pot.
“A worker’s life could have been spared if Caterpillar had made sure required safety protections were in place, a fact that only adds to this tragedy. Producing more than 150,000 tons each year, Caterpillar’s foundry is one of the nation’s largest and they should be acutely aware of industry regulations to protect workers using smelters and other dangerous equipment.”– Bill Donovan, OSHA regional administrator
OSHA said it was issuing a proposed fine of $145,027 to Caterpillar, which has 15 days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings.
A representative for Caterpillar said, “Our thoughts remain with this employee’s family, friends and colleagues. The safety of our employees, contractors and visitors is our top priority at all Caterpillar locations around the world.” The spokesperson said the company “will continue to engage with OSHA to seek an appropriate resolution to its review.”, according to CBS News.
In a separate incident in July, a South Carolina worker died when he fell into an industrial shredder, according to CBS News.