A Wisconsin corn mill and six of its managers have been indicted by a federal grand jury for a May 31, 2017, fatal explosion.
Didion Milling and several members of its management face nine criminal counts, including two counts related to willful violations of OSHA standards for grain handling.
The indictment, which was handed down May 11 by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, charges current and former managers with document falsification in an OSHA investigation and obstruction of an OSHA investigation. It also charges the company and managers with falsifying entries in a cleaning logbook which involved “matters under OSHA’s jurisdiction.”
Willfully violated 2 OSHA standards
Didion Milling allegedly willfully violated two OSHA standards by failing to develop and implement a written program to address combustible grain dust accumulations and by failing to install venting or suppression on a dust filter collector to prevent an explosion.
The indictment alleges that those two failures were the cause of the combustible dust explosion that killed five employees and injured 15 others on May 31, 2017.
Other allegations include:
- The company and four employees – vice president of operations, Derrick Clark; former food safety superintendent, Shawn Mesner; former shift superintendent, Anthony Hess; and former shift superintendent, Joel Niemeyer – committed fraud by agreeing to conceal the failure to adhere to food safety procedures.
- Didion Milling, Clark, Mesner, Hess and Niemeyer, along with former environmental coordinators James Lenz and Joseph Winch, conspired to conceal violations and unsafe conditions from auditors and government agencies.
- Hess, Clark and Didion obstructed justice by providing false testimony to OSHA about their knowledge of combustible dust hazards at the mill.
Former shift superintendents Michael Bright and Nicholas Booker pleaded guilty previously to making false entries in the cleaning logbook and other documents.