Federal workplace safety investigation of Mapleton foundry worker’s fatal fall into molten iron finds Caterpillar failed to install required fall protection
MAPLETON, IL ‒ On June 2, 2022, a 39-year-old employee of a Mapleton foundry fell and was immediately incinerated in an 11-foot-deep pot of molten iron heated to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A federal investigation determined that, if required safety guards or fall protection had been installed, the 39-year-old employee’s ninth day on the job might not have been their last.
Caterpillar of Irving, Texas – one of the world’s largest manufacturers of industrial vehicles and equipment – operates the foundry, which produces cast iron engine components.
Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the foundry routinely exposed employees to unprotected fall hazards as they worked within four feet of deep ceramic containers of super-heated molten iron. The deceased worker, a melting specialist, was removing a sample of iron from a furnace when they 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,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan in Chicago. “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.”
Federal safety regulations require employers to install guardrails and restraint systems, or to cover or otherwise eliminate the hazard to protect workers from falls into dangerous equipment.
OSHA cited Caterpillar Inc. for one willful violation and proposed fines of $145,027.
“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,” said OSHA Area Director Christine Zortman in Peoria. “We implore employers to review the agency specific regulations to protect workers from falls into equipment in industrial settings.”
Caterpillar Inc. employs more than 800 workers at the foundry, who provide engine components used for construction and mining equipment, off-highway diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.