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Sampling molten metal.

Caterpillar Cited, Fined for Melt Deck Fatality

Nov. 14, 2022
A worker was killed when drawing a sample of molten iron, causing OSHA to charge the foundry with willful violation of safety standards and proposing a fine of $145,000.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is charging Caterpillar Inc. with a willful violation of federal safety regulations after investigators concluded a 39-year-old worker at the group’s Mapleton, IL, foundry died as a consequence of the plant exposing workers to “unprotected fall hazards.”

On June 2, the worker fell into an open vessel of molten iron heated to more than 2,000° F while drawing a metallurgical sample, and was incinerated.

By regulation, a “willful” violation is one committed with intentional knowing of or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with indifference to worker safety and health.

OSHA’s charge carries a proposed penalty of $145,027 for Caterpillar.

In keeping with the federal Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970, Caterpillar was provided 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.

“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,” stated OSHA regional administrator Bill Donovan. “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.”

The Caterpillar Foundry has over 800 workers and melts up to 1,000 tons of iron daily, for casting engine blocks and other parts for Caterpillar equipment and vehicles. According to the manufacturer, the foundry ships 150,000 tons of finished products in the average year.

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