11/17/17 – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing fines of $1.83-million dollars against Didion Milling for an explosion that killed five workers and injured 12 others. OSHA announced Friday that the May 31 explosion at the Cambria facility “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.” The company was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. OSHA Regional Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha says the company could have prevented the tragedy by addressing hazards that are “well-known in the industry” and says their “disregard for the law led to an explosion that claimed the lives of workers, and heartbreak for their families and the community.” There were eight egregious citations issued for violating OSHA’s grain handling standards by failing to perform required maintenance on operating equipment and for not implementing a program to control dust accumulations. Six willful citations were issued for failures 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. Five serious citations were handed down for hazards associated with fires and explosions, along with a lack of employee training. Didion issued a statement Friday that says the company “does not agree with the severity of the penalties…or the conclusions released by OSHA.” The family-owned business is working with their legal counsel to determine the best way to address the matter. The company has two weeks to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Didion’s statement also emphasizes that the company plans rebuild a corn milling facility in Cambria and says they are working with “industry experts and other agencies to determine the cause” of the explosion.
Photo courtesy of Alan Mannel