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Steelworker Dies in Accident at Understaffed Gary Works Plant

Jason Reese

Jonathan Arizzola was a 30-year-old Navy veteran, a husband, and a father to two children. Last week, he died in a steel mill accident on the job at the Gary Works plant and other workers point to dangerous understaffing as a possible contributor to Arizzola’s death.

The U.S. Steel Slab Storage Yard in Gary is the largest steel mill in North America. Yet protests have abounded over the past few weeks, as worker and union representatives believe worker layoffs and demotions have resulted in unsafe working conditions for employees at the northwest Indiana facililty.

Two Deaths in Four Months

Arizzola was a maintenance worker who died while performing maintenance on a crane. Other details about the accident have been in short supply while the investigation continues. This tragic (and possibly preventable) steel mill accident comes on the heels of another death at the same Gary steel mill. In June, a 67-year-old electrician named Charles Kremke died after being electrocuted on the job.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the 14 steel manufacturing deaths in 2014 are around the average for the United States. Typically, Indiana accounts for two of those deaths each year.

Are Layoffs Creating Unsafe Conditions for Workers?

In August, 75 maintenance staff were laid off from the Gary Works plant, and another 200 took pay cuts. The result, according to United Steelworkers Local 2014, is fewer workers taking on more tasks for less pay. It is well-known that accidents are more likely as workers take on new or more novel tasks for their role. Employees in any role who are feeling rushed to complete tasks due to workload may also be overtired or stressed, raising the possibility of accidents. Were workers being forced to function in dangerous working conditions at Gary Works? Time and the investigation by union and federal agencies will certainly shed some light on the subject.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a steel mill or other work-related accident, your employer may be liable for your injuries. Call the Indianapolis-based workers’ compensation attorneys at Wagner Reese today at (888) 204-8440 to discuss your potential claim. We provide a no-risk, cost-free consultation for all clients.

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