On May 31, an explosion at a Didion Milling Inc. facility in Cambria, Wis. claimed the lives of five workers and injured 12 others.
Carlos “Charly” Nunez, Angel Reyes, Pawel Tordoff, Duelle Block and Robert Goodenow died that day. A subsequent OSHA investigation revealed multiple willful violations and details about what led to the blast. Didion Milling, a company known for storing, milling and transporting corn as well as ethanol product, failed to correct numerous fire and explosion hazards, according to the agency.
“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. “Instead, their disregard for the law led to an explosion that claimed the lives of workers, and heartbreak for their families and the community.”
In total, investigators noted 14 willful – including eight that were categorized as willful, per-instance egregious– and five serious citations at the Wisconsin facility.
OSHA claims that Didion Milling:
- Did not make an effort to stop the leakage and accumulation of highly-combustible grain dust throughout the Cambria, Wis. facility or to properly maintain equipment to control ignition sources.
- Employees were not trained at least annually on common ignition methods including electrical and wiring methods. Filter dust collectors were not installed outside of the building, and filters installed inside the facility did not have explosion protection.
- Did not ensure that pneumatic conveying systems handling combustible dust were grounded. Workers were not provided with personal protective equipment including clothing, respiratory devices or shields.
- Did not have an emergency protection plan or emergency alarm system.
- Did not have any written instructions or housekeeping plans regarding combustible grain dust removal.
The agency proposed a total of $1,837,861 in fines. Didion Milling Inc. disagreed with the citations in the following statement posted on its web site:
The Didion team continues to mourn the loss of our team members who died or were injured that tragic day in May – we will never forget what happened. Our thoughts remain first and foremost with the families of those affected, our employees and the community.
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. 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.
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.
We would like to once again thank our team members for their resolve and strength throughout this difficult process. We also would like to extend our gratitude to all of the First Responders who came from miles around to help us, and the Village of Cambria who opened their doors to support us.
Didion 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 Atha or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.