Caterpillar failed to prevent IL worker's molten iron death, OSHA says – USA TODAY

MAPLETON, Ill. — Caterpillar Inc. is facing proposed fines of more than $145,000 after a federal investigation concluded that the construction-equipment manufacturer failed to install necessary safety measures at an Illinois facility where a worker suffered a fatal fall into molten iron in June.
The Caterpillar employee, a melting specialist at the Mapleton foundry, was removing an iron sample from a furnace when they fell into the 11-foot-deep pot, which was “heated to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to a Wednesday news release from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They died instantly.
The deceased worker was Steven Dierkes, a 39-year-old Peoria resident, the Peoria County coroner said. The foundry manufactures cast iron engine components for the construction equipment manufacturer.
The OSHA investigation found that “the foundry routinely exposed employees to unprotected fall hazards as they worked within four feet of deep ceramic containers of super-heated molten iron.”
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“Caterpillar’s failure to meet its legal responsibilities to ensure the safety and health of workers leaves this worker’s family, friends and co-workers to grieve needlessly,” OSHA Area Director Christine Zortman said.
OSHA issued Caterpillar a citation for willful violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, alleging that the company failed to install a legally required guardrail system or travel restraint that would have saved Dierkes’ life. OSHA has proposed fines of $145,027.
“The safety of our employees, contractors and visitors is our top priority at all Caterpillar locations around the world,” Caterpillar spokeswoman Lisa Miller wrote in a statement to the Journal Star, part of the USA TODAY Network. “Regarding the serious safety incident that occurred, we will continue to engage with OSHA to seek an appropriate resolution to its review.”
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Dierkes’ death was the second to occur at the Mapleton foundry in less than a year. In December 2021, East Peoria resident Scott Adams fell to his death at the facility. Adams is believed to have fallen over 20 feet through a hole in the floor, suffering fatal injuries, according to an OSHA investigation.
In June, OSHA issued citations to two contractors involved with the site and proposed fines of $10,151, alleging that workers at the foundry were not adequately protected from falls as required by safety regulations.
Contributing: Wyatte Grantham-Philips, USA TODAY.


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