The incident happened in the coke ovens on July 5, 2013, when a worker had to perform a procedure that required the retraction of a hydraulic arm. There was a “flaw in the procedure,” and the arm slammed back into him, trapping him between the arm and the machine, says Gary Howe, vice president of the local 1005 steelworkers union.
“It pinned him up against a machine. He could feel his ribs being crushed and he lost consciousness,” Howe said. “He was fairly seriously injured.”
The man was pulled from the machine by another worker and rushed to hospital. He has since recovered and returned to work, but is still feeling the lingering effects of his injuries, Howe says. “He doesn’t like to talk about it now,” he said. “It was the most serious accident we’ve had in three to four years.”
According to court documents, three charges have been laid against U.S. Steel. The first two are that the company failed to make sure there was enough clearance for the worker to be safe when “working in the path of travel of a hydraulic ram” and that US Steel “failed to take the reasonable precautions” to make sure a device called a charge car was stopped and wasn’t near a worker.
The third charge is that the company failed as an employer to provide information, instruction or supervision to a worker in completing the procedure.
A supervisor was also charged with “failing to advise a worker of any potential or actual dangers” before performing the procedure, Howe says.
U.S. Steel has not yet returned a request for comment made Wednesday.
Howe says this is a situation where the worker needed improved training for this procedure and better communication was needed from the top down.
“The worker wasn’t aware of the correct procedure to do the job,” Howe said. “There was a lot of miscommunication here. He’d never encountered this procedure before.”
“He was lucky – because he was in good shape and fairly skinny. But if it had been someone like me … I could’ve been killed.”
The charges will be heard in court in September.