Changes have been made to the BOF facility at ArcelorMittal’s Burns Harbor
plant, after the death late last year of a salaried employee badly burned
when a high-pressure steam hose ruptured.
Gabe Rocha, 53, died on Nov. 15 at Loyola University Medical Center in
Maywood, Ill., two weeks after the hose at the No. 1 basic oxygen
furnace—and the hose’s valve—burst and sprayed Rocha with steam over 50 to
60 percent of his body.
The hose in question served the vessel hood system, which is designed to use
water to keep the BOF cool.
Paul Gipson, president of United Steelworkers Local 6787, told the
Chesterton Tribune today that the hose in question—a flex steel model
only two years old—had been installed at the suggestion of a vendor to
replace an older pipe system. Those older pipes would move with the tilting
of the BOF vessels themselves, Gipson said, and the stress of the movement
made frequent repairs and replacement necessary.
The idea of the steel flex hose was to reduce the need for maintenance.
But, Gipson said, when the new flex hose was installed, an old pop-off
relief valve “which went back to the Bethlehem Steel days”—making it more
than 10 years old—was retained, and that valve failed in the accident.
Now the flex hose itself has been replaced with a heavier gauge steel pipe
rated in excess of 800 PSI and a new relief valve has been installed, Gipson
In addition, “barriers have been put over the pipes” for further protection.
The problem, Gipson noted, is that however good the idea might have been to
replace the old pipe system with the flex hose, “no one ever really looked
at the big picture, whether the pop-off relief valve was capable of the
operation. Now we know it wasn’t.”
Gipson added that union and management safety coordinators have “gone
through the plant” together to ensure that nothing like the Oct. 29 accident
will occur again. “Everything’s fine in the plant and the way it should be,”