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U.S. Steel fined $28,000 for death at Gary Works

U.S. Steel's Gary Works steel mill is pictured above. The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration is fining the steelmaker $28,000 for the death of a worker there in June.

A state investigation found U.S. Steel committed four serious safety violations in the death of a steelworker in June at Gary Works.

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration is fining U.S. Steel $28,000 for the lapses in safety that contributed to the death of 67-year-old Charles Kremke. The electrical maintenance technician died of accidental electrocution at the mill June 15.

U.S. Steel spokeswoman Erin DiPietro declined to comment. 

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker exercised its right for an informal settlement meeting, and IOSHA is in the process of working out a settlement agreement, IOSHA spokeswoman Amanda Stanley said.

IOSHA found Kremke had been changing out a 250 volt fuse holder at Gary Works while a 120 volt programmable logic control and a 480 volt transformer were still energized. Investigators identified four safety violations, all of which were deemed "serious."

State investigators faulted U.S. Steel for not de-energizing live parts before an employee worked on them, for not training an employee to be able to distinguish live parts from other electrical equipment, for not testing that circuit elements and electric equipment parts were de-energized before going in to do work, and for not providing a worker with protective shields or barriers to prevent inadvertent contact with an electrical current while working in a confined space.

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Kremke had been electrocuted while working in the back of a 2-foot-wide, 2-foot-deep and 6-foot-tall cabinet in the Westinghouse basement of the No. 1 Caster, according to an IOSHA report.

As is customary, IOSHA is pursuing both fines and corrective actions that would prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future.

Kremke was one of two steelworkers to die at Gary Works this year. Jonathan Arizzola, a 30-year-old Valparaiso resident, died in a crane accident at the mill on the shore of Lake Michigan on Sept. 30. His wife said he suffered an electric shock in another accident earlier that week.

IOSHA continues to investigate that incident.

The United Steelworkers union said U.S. Steel had made the mill less safe by cutting maintenance workers and rushing roving labor gangs through a backlog of jobs. The steelmaker has since recalled most of those workers.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.