OSHA Punishes Caterpillar After Worker Is ‘Immediately Incinerated’ on His 9th Day on the Job

In a tragic accident on June 2, an employee at a foundry that is operated by the industrial manufacturer Caterpillar fell into a pot of molten iron and immediately died. Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed a fine for Caterpillar for not adhering to the administration’s safety standards.

Caterpillar produces heavy machinery and industrial equipment, such as mining equipment, industrial turbines and engines.

The company is based in Irving, Texas, but operates a foundry in Mapleton Illinois, where this tragic death took place in June, a Nov. 9 news release from OSHA reported.

The worker who died was identified as 39-year-old Steven Dierkes, WMAQ-TV reported.

It was only Dierkes’ ninth day on the job, OSHA noted.

According to OSHA, Dierkes was a melting specialist and was moving iron from the furnace when he fell into the 11-foot-deep vat that held the molten iron, which was heated to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

OSHA said that Dierkes “was immediately incinerated.”

Not only is OSHA fining the company for the man’s death, but after investigating the incident, the agency found that if Caterpillar had followed safety procedures set by the administration, the man’s life would likely have been saved.

According to regulations, employers like Caterpillar are supposed to have guard rails or some sort of restraint around dangerous work equipment (such as a vat of molten iron).

“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, the OSHA regional administrator in Chicago, said, according to the OSHA news release.

OSHA has proposed a fine of $145,027 for Caterpillar, the news release reported.

After being cited and fined, the company has 15 business days to “request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission,” OSHA’s news release outlined.

“We will continue to engage with OSHA to seek an appropriate resolution to its review,” Lisa Miller, spokeswoman for Caterpillar, told the Associated Press.

Though Dierkes’ death was the main concern of this OSHA investigation and the resulting fine and citation for Caterpillar, it was actually the second death that occurred at the Mapleton foundry within six months, the AP reported.

Scott Adams, a 50-year-old from East Peoria who was working at the foundry as a contractor from Shaefer Electric, fell to his death at the foundry in December of 2021, the Peoria Journal Star reported.

At the time, OSHA also investigated Adams’ death and believed that he stepped off a ladder and fell 20 feet through a hole in the floor, which killed him, the Journal Star added.

Adams’ death does not appear to be related to the fine that OSHA is now proposing for Caterpillar.

OSHA’s officials have warned employers in general to follow safety guidelines so that tragedies like Dierkes’ don’t happen.

“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. We implore employers to review the agency specific regulations to protect workers from falls into equipment in industrial settings,” said Christine Zortman, the OSHA area director in Peoria, according to the news release.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.