South Lyon, MI — A 54-year-old worker died after he fell into a vat of sulfuric acid at a South Lyon-based steel manufacturing firm over the weekend, in what is being described as a “serious industrial accident.”
Fire Chief, Robert Vogel, told The Detroit News that Daniel Hill was fully submerged in the 10 percent to 12 percent sulfuric acid solution, as his co-workers at Michigan Seamless Tube tried desperately to pull him from the industrial container, burning themselves from the 160-degree chemical solution.
The employees had put Hill under a safety shower, and medics then transported him to the University Hospital in Ann Arbor.
The Washtenaw County Medical Examiner said Hill died late Saturday night of chemical burns.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive chemical that is potentially explosive in concentrated form. It can cause severe skin burns, can irritate the nose and throat and cause difficulties breathing if inhaled, can burn the eyes and possibly cause blindness, and can burn holes in the stomach if swallowed.
It was unclear how Hill ended up in the vat and how long it was before he was rescued, Vogel said. The co-workers who assisted Hill sustained burns to their hands.
An HR spokesperson from Michigan Seamless Tube said the company is conducting a “comprehensive investigation” and is “cooperating fully” with the Michigan/OSHA investigation.
According to OSHA, Michigan Seamless Tube, one of South Lyon’s largest employers, has had seven workplace safety violations since 2012, with fines totaling $93,000.
The state of Michigan fined the company $17,500 for a repeated violation in August of not guarding or protecting six employees from “pinch points,” places where people or body parts could be caught in a machine or between equipment.
Another serious violation related to the company’s control of hazardous energy and also resulted in a $35,000 fine.
In 2014, the state also found the company was not keeping storage areas free from accumulated materials that could cause a fire or explosion, or harbor pests. The violation affected 12 employees, though no fine was issued.