Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) has fined Beta Steel
Corporation in Portage a total of $4,200 for two “serious” violations found
by investigators following a fatal accident at the plant earlier this year.
7 p.m. Jan. 7, Michael Kies, 35, of Hammond, was killed and four other
employees injured in an explosion of the plant’s electric arc furnace.
investigators subsequently found that the five employees had discovered
“water coming from the delta ring while the furnace was in the slag
position” and had climbed to “the roof of the furnace to isolate and shut
off the water going to the furnace when an explosion occurred, knocking the
employees off of the furnace to the floor below,” according to a report
issued on March 1.
Coroner Vicki Deppe ruled the cause of Kies’ death as blunt force trauma to
In that same
report IOSHA identified two violations: one involving a defective piece of
protective clothing, the other protocol.
“silver jacket used by furnace employees when working with molten metal for
performing various furnace assignments had a torn off sleeve and burn holes
everywhere on the jacket,” the report stated.
Beta Steel also
“did not establish and maintain conditions of work which were reasonably
safe and healthful for employees,” when it failed to include in a
protocol—developed in November 2009 following a similar incident in which
four employees were injured—this “feasible and acceptable abatement method”:
namely, “employees are not to go on top of the furnace until it has been
assessed a fine of $1,500 for the first violation and one of $4,500 for the
second. Both violations IOSHA classified as “serious.”
reduced those fines by 30 percent—to $4,200—after Beta Steel agreed to send
a furnace manager to IOSHA’s 30-hour general industry training by June 30,
according to a safety order issued on Wednesday.
president of Local 2038 of the International Longshoremen’s Association,
characterized the incident as a “super-heated steam explosion” and told the
Chesterton Tribune in January that, had the roof not been in place on
the furnace at the time, the force of the explosion would have dissipated a
sustained minor injuries on Nov. 14 when a similar eruption of the furnace
As of deadline
today Beta Steel had not returned a call to the Tribune.
Beta Steel is a
mini-mill operation incorporating an electric arc furnace which converts
scrap steel into continuous cast steel slabs. The facility also features a
hot-strip rolling mill for processing those slabs into flat-rolled steel.