Last Friday, a 62-year-old steelworker who had been critically injured in a workplace accident died from his injuries. According to a report by the Chesterton Tribune, on February 8, the employee was working in a water treatment area at ArcelorMittal’s Indiana Harbor steel processing facility, and was seriously burned when he fell into a sinkhole of scalding water that had opened up near a boiler tank. He was hospitalized with severe burns, and eventually died.
The sinkhole was discovered in December of last year in an open area adjacent to a brine tank, and was the result of a leaking pipe nearby. The company placed barriers around the sinkhole, but coworkers say that the visibility in that area of the plant was often poor and obstructed by steam, and the worker may not have seen the hazard. Unfortunately, the man fell through the barrier and into the scalding water that had gathered in the sinkhole. The management, the United Steelworker’s Union, and OSHA have conducted a joint study into the cause of accident but the results have not yet been released.
It is unfortunate that the sinkhole was not filled when it was discovered, and instead it was allowed to grow larger until this tragedy occurred. Because the facility placed barriers around the hole before the accident, it is difficult to predict if the employer may be responsible for the accident until the investigation is complete. The deceased man’s family likely faces substantial medical expenses from his month long hospitalization, and his death will result in other expenses. In addition the man’s family has suffered substantial non-monetary loss in the death of their loved one.