The accident which resulted in the fatal injuries of a veteran steelmaker at
Mittal Steel USA’s Burns Harbor facility apparently was the result of human
error, according to a preliminary report prepared by investigators.
At approximately 10:25 a.m. Kevin Sullivan, 50, of LaPorte—a 14-year veteran
of the Bethlehem Steel, International Steel Group, and Mittal Steel—was
crushed between a tracked machine used to open and close the doors of the
Coke Battery No. 1 and a wall of the coke battery elevator compartment. He
was transported to Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus and was pronounced dead
at 2:30 p.m.
Sullivan, a Top Relief Operator, had just competed a relief stint at the No.
1 Door Machine and is believed to have been on his way to the top of the No.
1 Battery to relieve a Larry car operator there when he walked behind the
No. 1 Door Machine, the report states.
At that moment a shift manager who had replaced Sullivan at the controls of
the No. 1 Door Machine to inspect a latching problem previously identified
by Sullivan moved the No. 1 Door Machine backward by approximately four feet
to allow the Door Machine Operator, just coming back on shift, to enter the
operator’s cab without having to expose herself to the heat from the open
oven door, the report states.
When the No. 1 Door Machine moved backwards, the report states, Sullivan was
trapped in a nine-inch space between the No. 1 Door Machine and the wall of
the elevator compartment.
Once Door Machine Operator had entered the cab, the report states, the shift
manager moved the No. 1 Door Machine forward by four feet to its original
Sullivan—who was not visible in a bench camera installed in the No. 1 Door
Machine—was discovered lying on a bench by an electrician called to the
scene to trouble-shoot the latching problem, the report states. There were
no eyewitnesses to the accident, and the preliminary report recommends a
further investigation of the visible range of the camera.
Paul Gipson, president of Local 6787 of the United Steelworkers, told the
Chesterton Tribune that the accident has all of the hallmarks of human error
and occurred when Sullivan made the assumption that the No. 1 Door Machine
was not going to move backward and the shift manager at the controls of the
machine made the assumption that no one was behind it.