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Indiana Death Spotlights the Dangers of the Steel Working Profession

Steve Wagner

Indiana Steelworker’s Death Prompts Review of Company Safety Plan

Earlier this month, a steelworker died at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, the largest integrated steelmaking facility in North America, located in East Chicago, Indiana. According to the United Steelworkers Union Local 1010, the 61-year-old man was driving a Taylor Dunn buggy at the steel mill and drove under a stationary scrap trailer. It is believed he and his coworkers attached a scrap piece of steel to the buggy to put it into the trailer. A worker may have then disconnected a safety strip while the operator of the buggy was trying to move out of the area. The buggy suddenly went forward under the trailer with the driver still in it.

Although there was an immediate response by coworkers, the worker was transported by plant ambulance and plant medical responders to a local hospital. An official cause of death has not been determined at this point in time; the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating. The wrongful death and workplace injury attorneys at Wagner Reese will continue to follow this story and are thinking of the victim’s family, friends and co-workers during this difficult time.

Steelworkers Face Deadly On-The-Job Risks

Unfortunately, workplace injuries are an all-too-common threat, no matter what type of work environment you inhabit. But according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the percentage of injuries to steelworkers, including ironworkers, is among the highest of all career fields. Each year, 47 out of every 100,000 steelworkers in the United States will experience a serious (or fatal injury), ranking steelwork the sixth most dangerous job in America. Most common steelworker injuries are:

  • Burns: These workers are at high risk for burns due to chemical exposure and working with highly flammable substances such as gasoline and other solvents that easily ignite. Sparks created from daily welding jobs can also make burn injuries all too common.
  • Cuts, Lacerations and Amputations: Cutting tools and abrasive materials and surfaces found in steel mills can cause serious injury or even death. The power tools and heavy machinery used, such as saws and conveyer belts, can cause a serious accident as well.
  • Exposure: Steelworkers are often exposed to airborne chromium and nickel compounds as well as silica dust and other mineral constituents of foundry sand, and carbon monoxide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Without protection, increased exposure to metal fumes can pose a health risk and significantly increase a worker’s risk for lung cancer.
  • Falls: Falls are a hazard found in many work settings and can cause serious injuries or death. A fall can occur while walking or climbing a ladder or frame, or as a result of a complex series of events. There are safety techniques that can minimize fall injuries and workers should be provided adequate training and properly functioning safety equipment.
  • Hearing Loss: The National Institute for OccupationalSafety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended that all worker exposures to noise should be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss. Steelworkers are often on an overtime schedule, pushing the eight-hour recommendation and creating a risk for permanent hearing loss.
  • Muscle Damage: The heavy lifting of materials and equipment can cause serious, sometimes permanent damage to the muscular system if not done safely. Most injuries are the result or repetitive motions.
  • Spinal Cord Injuries: These injuries can result in paralysis and most often occur due to falls, scaffold collapses, the collapse of steel columns or decks, transportation and other common construction site accidents.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Traumatic brain injuries have the potential to compromise a person’s quality of life for the rest of his or her life. If not diagnosed in time, a TBI can even prove to be fatal. TBIs can occur to steel workers as the result of falls from high places, trip- or slip-and-fall accidents, blows to the head from falling objects, material transportation vehicles and scaffold collapses.
  • Work-Related Wrongful Death: Although it’s the least common type of workplace accident, there are still nearly 5,000 people who lose their lives each year in a work-accident.

The plain and simple truth is that it is the responsibility of every employer to ensure a safe work environment for their workers. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, regulations have been in place since 1970 to ensure that workers are entitled to an environment and conditions that do not pose a risk of serious bodily harm. The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) is continually working to improve working conditions, educate employers and employees, and pass legislation to keep working environments safer. Workers have the right to a workplace that undergoes regular inspections, and they also have the right to report errors, dangers, and injuries without the fear of retaliation from an employer, discrimination, or the loss of a job. Workers are entitled to see full reports of the safety inspections done in their workplace so they have the information they need to stay safe.

In the case of a workplace fatality, often times worker’s compensation is not enough to cover the surviving family members’ living expenses in the absence of their loved one. A wrongful death claim in these cases can help a family carry on, even without the ongoing income and support of their loved one. Indiana workers’ compensation death benefits are among the lowest in the country, so work-related wrongful death lawsuits can often bridge the gap.

We Support Your Work Injury or Wrongful Death Claim

If you are a steelworker and have been injured in your workplace, the work injury attorneys at Wagner Reese are here to support your workers’ compensation claim and get you back to earning a living. If you have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident or employer negligence, wrongful death damages can be awarded. We put decades of experience to work for you, and we won’t collect any fees unless your case is settled or won. Connect with us by submitting our online form, and our attorneys will review your information, and respond promptly. If you wish to speak directly with us, please call (888) 204-8440.

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