Illinois Caterpillar workers are threatening to go on strike, blaming poor workplace conditions after a worker fell into an 11-foot-deep pot of molten iron

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CaterpillarSeth Perlman/AP Photo
Nine days after working at a Caterpillar foundry, Steven Dierkes died after falling into molten iron.
Osha determined that Dierke's life could have been saved if fall protection had been installed.
Colleagues told the Guardian they blamed working conditions at the plant for Dierke's death.
Workers at Caterpillar's Mapleton, Illinois foundry blame working conditions for the death in June of a colleague who was burned to death after falling into an 11-foot-deep pot of molten iron.
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Workers at the Mapleton plant are now threatening a June 2 strike months after the death of Steven Dierkes, a 39-year-old father of three. They blame working conditions, according to a story published by The Guardian on November 26.
“They breathe in smoke and dust six, seven days a week,” the former plant worker recently told The Guardian. “There was a lack of concern when we raised a safety issue there. Most of the time it was overlooked or their solution led to a whole new security issue or issues.”
Another anonymous worker told the Guardian that the plant allowed workers to come back two days after Dierke's death.
"The air literally still smelled of his burning body," the worker told the Guardian. “There were no crash barriers, no seat belt procedures and nothing to ensure you wouldn't fall into the huge iron filled holes. As he collected an iron sample with the spoon, he fell in and whirled up.”
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According to a statement from the Department of Labor, federal investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that Dierkes' death could have been prevented if the necessary safety devices or fall protection systems had been installed.
"A worker's life could have been saved if Caterpillar had made sure the necessary safety precautions were in place, a fact that only adds to this tragedy," OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan said in Chicago. "With an annual production of more than 150,000 tons, Caterpillar's foundry is one of the largest in the country and they should have a good understanding of industry regulations protecting workers who use melters and other hazardous equipment."
After the incident, OSHA has proposed a fine of $145,027.
"Caterpillar's failure to meet its legal responsibilities to ensure the safety and health of its workers brings needless grief to that worker's family, friends and co-workers," said OSHA Area Manager Christine Zortman in Peoria. "We urge employers to review agency-specific regulations protecting workers from falls into equipment in industrial settings."
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Dierkes' fiancee Jessica Sutter, who had two daughters with him, told The Guardian that Caterpillar gave her and her daughters no help or support whatsoever after her fiance's death.
"My kids are without their father, I'm without my fiancé, my partner, my best friend, all because they didn't want better security for this type of work," Sutter told the outlet.
In a statement to The Guardian, a Caterpillar spokesman said they will continue to work with OSHA to "find an appropriate resolution."
"We continue to be deeply saddened by the death of a staff member involved in a serious incident at our Mapleton, Illinois facility on June 2," the statement to the Guardian said. “Our thoughts remain with the family, friends and colleagues of this employee. The safety of our employees, contractors and visitors is our top priority at all Caterpillar locations around the world.”
Read the original article on Insider

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