Corn facility fined after fatal grain dust explosion

OSHA proposes $1.8 million in fines against Didion Milling following May explosion that killed five and injured 12 others.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed $1,837,861 in fines against Didion Milling Inc. following a May 31, 2017, explosion that killed five workers and injured 12 others, including a 21-year-old employee who suffered a double leg amputation after being crushed by a railcar. Didion disagreed with OSHA's findings and its proposed fines.

OSHA said it found that the explosion likely resulted from Didion’s failures to correct the leakage and accumulation of highly combustible grain dust throughout the facility and to properly maintain equipment to control ignition sources. OSHA cited Didion’s Cambria, Wis., facility with 14 willful – including eight willful per-instance egregious– and five serious citations, most involving fire and explosion hazards. The company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

“Didion Milling could have prevented this tragedy if it had addressed hazards that are well-known in this industry,” said Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA regional administrator in Chicago, Ill. “Instead, their disregard for the law led to an explosion that claimed the lives of workers and heartbreak for their families and the community.”

The egregious willful citations were issued for violating OSHA’s Grain Handling standard by failing to perform required maintenance on operating equipment and implementing a housekeeping program to control dust accumulations. Willful citations were issued for failure to shut down ignition sources, prevent static electricity discharge, provide adequate personal protective equipment to employees, correct malfunctioning dust collection systems, maintain equipment safety controls and have an emergency alarm system. Serious citations addressed hazards associated with fires and explosions and the lack of employee training.

“We are working with our legal counsel to determine how to address the findings from this federal agency,” a statement from the company said. “Regardless of how we address OSHA’s decision, it is our intent to rebuild our corn milling facility in Cambria. As a family-owned company that has operated in the community for more than 45 years, we recognize how important our mill is for creating new jobs and adding economic value to the area, as well as providing an important source of revenue for area farmers and offering our customers high-quality products.”

The company added: “We pledge to our team members, the farmers and customers we serve, our community partners, the village of Cambria and the people of Wisconsin that we will build a state-of-the-art, best-in-class facility. The new mill will utilize the latest technology and industry best practices, creating one of the most efficient, effective and safe operational systems available.”

Didion said it is continuing to work with industry experts and other agencies to determine the cause of the incident.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.

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