Safety and OSHA News

Dust buildup causes explosion, 5 deaths: $1.84M OSHA fine

A Wisconsin company disputes the severity of a $1,837,861 OSHA fine following an explosion that killed five employees at its facility. 

OSHA issued 14 willful (including 8 egregious, per-instance) and 5 serious citations to Didion Milling Inc. of Cambria, WI, after the agency’s investigation into a May 31, 2017, explosion that also injured 12 people, including a 21-year-old employee who suffered a double leg amputation after being crushed by a railcar. OSHA uses egregious, per-instance violations in severe cases instead of grouping or combining violations for penalty purposes. Each instance of noncompliance is considered a separate violation and a penalty is applied separately.

The company has also been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program which concentrates resources on inspecting employers that have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations. Companies in SVEP are likely to receive follow-up inspections.

The explosion likely resulted from Didion’s failure to correct the leakage and accumulation of highly combustible grain dust throughout its facility and to properly maintain equipment to control ignition sources, according to OSHA.

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 were issued for hazards associated with fires and explosions, and the lack of employee training.

In a statement, the company said:

“Didion does not agree with the severity of the penalties levied against our family-owned
business or the conclusions released by OSHA today. We are working with our legal counsel to
determine how to address the findings from this federal agency.”

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

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