US Steel fined $14,000 for the death of steelworker Jonathan Arizzola
Updated: Thursday, May 11, 2017 @ 12:46 PM
The Indiana Department of Labor found U.S. Steel committed two serious safety violations at Gary Works after investigating the death of 30-year-old steelworker Jonathan Arizzola in September.
U.S. Steel failed to provide safety training and protections against live electrical equipment, state investigators found.
The state agency is fining the steelmaker $14,000 total, or $7,000 for each violation. The amount is prescribed by statute.
U.S. Steel is contesting the ruling, Indiana Department of Labor spokeswoman Kristin Reed said.
Company spokeswoman Meghan Cox said U.S. Steel declined to comment.
Arizzola, a Navy veteran who had deployed to Pakistan, died after he was electrocuted while trying to fix a crane in the slab yard at Gary Works Sept. 30, 2016. He left behind a wife and two children.
United Steelworkers officials tied his death and the June electrocution death of 67-year-old Charles Kremke at Gary Works to cutbacks in maintenance staffing that they said posed safety hazards and that have since been reversed.
Union officials had raised concerns that maintenance workers were pressed into roving labor gangs and pushed to hurry through repairs in areas of the sprawling seven-mile-long mill they were unfamiliar with.
An Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation found that maintenance employees were performing repairs to the 501 crane in the slab yard while three collector rails were live, exposing the workers to electrical hazards.
"Qualified persons shall at a minimum be trained in and familiar with the skills and techniques necessary to distinguish exposed live parts from other parts of electrical equipment," the safety order read. "Protective shields, protective barriers or insulating materials were not used to protect each employee from shocks, burns, or other electrically related injuries while that employee was working near exposed energized parts."
Steelworker who died told wife mill was getting less safe
Joseph S. Pete firstname.lastname@example.org, (219) 933-3316
Oct 3, 2016
Jonathan Arizzola, a Navy veteran who deployed to Pakistan on a humanitarian mission, had suffered an electric shock in a separate accident at Gary Works the week before his death and had frequently told his wife it was getting dangerous there.
Arizzola died Friday night in an accident while working in a four-man crew assigned to troubleshoot a crane at the U.S. Steel slab storage yard in Gary. The 30-year-old Valparaiso resident was an electrician who worked at the mill for about four years, but was concerned with the deterioration of working conditions at the mill in Gary, his widow Whitney Arizzola said.
“He was constantly complaining about McKinsey group cutting back workers,” she said. “There was always some kind of close call with someone he worked with. I never imagined that something would happen to Jon, he was always the safest guy I knew.”
The United Steelworkers union has been protesting layoffs and the demotion of maintenance workers to labor gangs, including with a rally outside the mill gates. USW officials say the cuts have made the mill less safe, such as by having roving labor gangs work in parts of the 7-mile mill they’re unfamiliar with.
“Our company has decided that, to save a dollar, they’ll farm people out all over this mill which only increases the chances for accidents like these happening,” USW Local 1014 President Rodney Lewis said in a Facebook post to steelworkers. “They should instead be asking themselves if it’s high time they started listening to what we’ve been saying all along. Moving people all around a mill like chess pieces only promises to result in something tragic. Shutting down training when you need it the most is just bad business when you consider that we are ‘the company’s most important asset.’”
Bare-bones crews at Gary Works put steelworkers at risk for more accidents, Lewis said.
“Bad news is not an if, but a when,” he said. “As terrible as it sounds, haven’t we been saying that something was coming?”
U.S. Steel declined to comment on safety criticisms. Of course US Steel are very well known cheapskates. They cannot handle the import competition and they cut every corner they can.
Arizzola had an 8-year-old son and a son who turns 5 this week. He had served as an electrician on the USS Peleliu amphibious assault ship and was very proud of the military, even recently buying a soldier’s meal at El Salto.
“All they care about is making money,” Whitney Arizzola said. “They don’t care that it affects other people. He has a 4-year-old who’s turning 5. They keep cutting when they should have a safer environment for people. It shouldn’t be all about the money.”
His loss has been hard on their family.
“I have no husband now, my children have no father,” she said. “I have no idea how I’m going to pay for my house or my car, any of our bills, I was a stay at home mother. I have no experiences, Jon was everything to me.”
A GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/2s8p4s2c has been set up to help his family.