Didion Milling Inc. of Cambria, WI will protest some of the $1.8 million in OSHA fines stemming from a May 2017 explosion that killed five employees and injured 12 others, the company said in a short statement released December 8. The statement was a response to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that found 19 safety violations and proposed $1,837,861 in fines against the company after determining the blast “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.”
— Wisconsin State Journal (@WiStateJournal) December 9, 2017
In its plant located about 45 minutes northeast of Madison, Didion processes corn and corn by-products for ethanol plants. Prior to the the fatal explosion, the company had been cited by OSHA, according to the agency’s records. Inspectors noted dust explosion risks twice in 2010, an amputation incident in 2012, a dust explosion risk in 2013, and fall risks twice in 2014.
Didion Milling Explosion
Around 11 p.m. on May 31, 2017, an explosion occurred in Didion’s lab building and a massive fire engulfed the structure. Killed in the blast were and Robert Goodenow, 53, Pawel Tordoff, 21, and Duelle Block, 27. Angel Reyes, 46, died one week later from his injuries. Carlos “Charly” Nunez died Friday, June 23 at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison burn unit where he had been receiving treatment since the blast.
Employees who were injured suffered third-degree burns and other explosion injuries. Twenty-three-year-old Collin Vander Galien lost both of his legs when they were crushed by a rail car that landed on them after the explosion.
OSHA’s Explosion Investigation
OSHA investigators cited the company for 14 willful and five serious safety violations and placed the company on its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The citations included failure to:
- Perform required maintenance
- Control dust accumulation
- Shut down ignition sources
- Prevent static electricity discharges
- Provide adequate safety controls
- Have an emergency alarm system
- Adequately train employees.
“Didion Milling could have prevented this tragedy if it had addressed hazards that are well-known in this industry,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha said in a statement. “Instead, their disregard for the law led to an explosion that claimed the lives of workers, and heartbreak for their families and the community.”