The U.S. Dept. of Labor Occupational Heath and Safety Administration has issued a fine to equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. over safety issues at its foundry in Mapleton, Ill., following a fatality there earlier this year. 

Steven Dierkes, 39, who worked at the foundry, fell into a vat of molten iron that was heated to more than 2,000°F, killing him instantly.

According to a Nov. 9 statement released by OSHA, “a federal investigation determined that, if required safety guards or fall protection had been installed, the ... employee's ninth day on the job might not have been his last.”

OSHA cited Caterpillar for one willful violation, proposing a $145,027 fine. The firm has 15 business days from Nov. 9  to respond.

Federal regulations require employers to install guardrails and restraint systems, or to cover or eliminate such hazards to protect workers from falls into dangerous equipment, said OSHA. More than 800 workers are employed at the Mapleton foundry, which produces cast iron engine components for heavy equipment used in construction and mining sectors.

"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 should be acutely aware of industry regulations to protect workers using smelters and other dangerous equipment."

In response to an ENR request for comment, Lisa Miller, Caterpillar senior media relations and public affairs communicator, provided a statement.

“We continue to be deeply saddened by the death of an employee who was involved in a serious incident at our Mapleton, Illinois, facility on June 2. Regarding the serious safety incident that occurred, we will continue to engage with OSHA to seek an appropriate resolution to its review. The safety of our employees, contractors and visitors is our top priority at all Caterpillar locations around the world."