Caterpillar Employee ‘Incinerated’ After Falling Into Vat of Molten Iron

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An employee for Caterpillar, one of the largest manufacturers in the world of industrial vehicles and equipment, suffered a gruesome death earlier this year after falling into a vat of molten iron. Reports state that the employee was immediately “incinerated.” Officials issued the world-renowned company a major fine following a thorough investigation.

According to, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, otherwise known as OSHA, sent investigators to the Caterpillar foundry located in Mapleton, Illinois on June 2nd, per a press release from the agency. Investigators found the employee, later identified as Steven Dierkes, was “immediately incinerated” after he fell into an 11-foot-deep pot of molten iron burning at more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shockingly, the June fatality was the second to occur at the Mapleton foundry. Just over a year prior, another Caterpillar employee died after falling more than 20 feet through a hole in the floor. At the time, OSHA cited two of Caterpillar contractors for exposing workers to fall hazards.

Speaking about Dierkes’ death, OSHA Regional Administrator Bill Donovan, said, “A worker’s life could have been spared if Caterpillar had made sure required safety protections were in place, a fact that only adds to this tragedy.” Per the outlet, Dierkes had only been working at the foundry for nine days prior to his death.

Donovan further reprimanded the foundry, and Caterpillar overall, speaking about its prominence in the industrial business. “Producing more than 150,000 tons each year,” he continued, “Caterpillar’s foundry is one of the nation’s largest and they should be acutely aware of industry regulations to protect workers using smelters and other dangerous equipment.”

Caterpillar Addresses Its Latest Employee Fatality

Following OSHA’s investigation, Caterpillar issued a statement regarding Steven Dierkes’ death. They said, “Our thoughts remain with this employee’s family, friends, and colleagues. The safety of our employees, contractors and visitors is our top priority at all Caterpillar locations around the world.”

The company’s spokesperson further said Caterpillar “will continue to engage with OSHA to seek an appropriate resolution to its review.”

Following the close of the investigation, OSHA requires that Caterpillar pay a large fine totaling $145,027. The company has 15 days from receipt of the citations and penalties to respond. Within that time frame, they must do one of three things.

  1. Comply with the fine’s requirements
  2. Request a conference with OSHA’s area director
  3. Contest the findings

So far, Caterpillar hasn’t specifically detailed how they plan to respond to the review.

The Mapleton, IL deaths are just two of several that have occurred at foundries across the country. A third Caterpillar employee was killed in South Carolina in July after suffering an equally gruesome death. Per the outlet, the late worker died after falling into an industrial shredder.