Steven Dierkes Caterpillar worker killed falling into 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit molten iron crucible ruled accidental. Not the first worker related fatality at the industrial plant in ongoing work safety violations.
The death of a 39-year-old worker who died after falling into a molten iron vat of 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit molten at an Illinois industrial plant– has been ruled accidental.
Steven Dierkes, of Peoria, Illinois, died instantly while working alongside a crucible when he fell in last week, according to Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood.
Of note, investigators declined to place any culpability of the man’s death on the industrial plant The Sun reported. This despite a previous fatality at the plant only six months earlier, involving another employee, who died after falling into a hole along with ongoing fines and violations cited by Occupational Safety and Health Administration aka OSHA (more on that below).
Deputies were called to the industrial facility circa 10 a.m. on Thursday morning following reports of an ‘occupational accident,’ Peoria County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Chris Watkins said.
A veteran Caterpillar worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), that Dierkes ‘was taking a sample of iron for the met lab and apparently just tripped.’
Said the worker: ‘He died instantly, but not all of him went in. Part of his body remained on the deck for the coroner to retrieve.
‘It must have been ghastly for those folks that witnessed it and to wait for the coroner with half of their coworker lying on the floor.’
The worker said ‘the death occurred on one of the large melters in the main foundry melting area.’
The worker said he was unable to assess the conditions of the foundry melting area on account of the entire facility being sent home.
Another employee claimed on social media that Dierkes had ‘only been there for five days’ and didn’t have ‘sufficient training’ to be on the iron floor, according to WSWS.
An obituary for Dierkes, via PJ Star, notes the worker passed away at 9:23 a.m. from a ‘workplace accident.’
Second worker death in 6 months
A service celebrating his life will take place on June 9, 2022, at noon in Bloomington, Illinois.
He is survived by his life partner Jessica Sutter and their three daughters.
Read the obituary in part: ‘Dierkes is remembered as a hard-working teddy bear of a man with calloused hands and a tender heart,’ who ‘would have done anything for anyone with no expectation of anything in return.’
The father-of-three’s death comes six months after another deadly fall at the Mapleton foundry.
In December 2021, 50-year-old Scott M. Adams also had a fatal fall at the factory after stepping off a ladder only to fall through a hole in the floor that was not properly covered.
Following Adams’ incident, Caterpillar released a statement to NBC Chicago saying an investigation was underway and the company was ‘deeply saddened.’
Ongoing OSHA work safety violations and fines
The recent deaths follow the industrial plant being the ongoing recipient of fines and work related safety violations.
In 2020, OSHA fined the Caterpillar Mapleton facility $5,750 for a serious safety violation concerning ‘fall protection systems and falling objects.’ The full details have not been made public by OSHA.
In November 2019, OSHA fined Caterpillar $4,337 for a serious health and safety violation at the Mapleton facility. The facility was also fined $17,711 for multiple serious infractions such as ‘fall protection systems and falling objects’ in May 2019. Full details have not been released by OSHA for either case.
In January 2019, OSHA fined Caterpillar $10,419 for an incident where a worker’s finger was severed on the job at the facility.
Caterpillar was fined $25,868 in November 2017 for a safety violation. The report stated, ‘At 4:47 am on November 1, 2017, an employee walked down an automated crane aisle to check a crane that he believed had faulted. The crane began moving and struck the employee. The employee was hospitalized with multiple fractures and body trauma.’
And again, in July 2017, Caterpillar was fined $5,079 for an incident in which a worker sustained six broken ribs WSWS reported.
It remained unclear what measures Caterpillar had taken to address the ongoing work related safety infractions.
The Mapleton Foundry is described on Caterpillar’s website as ‘one of the largest in the United States.’
Offers Caterpillar: ‘It can melt up to 1,000 tons of iron each day to produce finished castings ranging from 15lb liners to 22,000lb cylinder blocks.’
‘These components are the foundation for the company’s 115-6,600hp (86- 4,920 kW) engine platforms,’ the company adds.
‘The facility ships an average of 150,000 tons of finished product each year.’