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US milling company fined $676K for fatal 2020 corn silo incident

08 June 2021

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced on June 7 that it had fined Didion Milling a total of $676,000 after a worker died from engulfment in an unsafe grain bin. Didion received 14 citations for grain-handling safety violations. The incident comes four years after the company was fined $1.8 million for not complying with federal safety standards that may have prevented an explosion that killed five and injured a dozen.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

In relation to the December 2020 engulfment death, OSHA said that Didion Milling employees contacted emergency services after a worker who was clearing corn debris from an unsafe silo failed to arrive for a regularly scheduled meeting. The employees were unable to find the worker at the silo, nor reach him by phone. It took emergency services nine hours to recover the body of the 52-year-old manager, found engulfed in the silo operated by Didion Milling in Cambria, Wisconsin.

An OSHA investigation found that the manager entered the unsafe grain bin despite recently having an external process underway to remove corn from the clogged silo. OSHA also determined that the external process should have continued for several more days before allowing anyone to enter the grain bin. The agency issued four wilful and 10 serious safety citations, most involving requirements for safe entry into grain storage structures, and proposed $676,808 in penalties.

“Didion Milling’s failure to learn from recent incidents and follow industry standards and their own company policies cost this worker’s life,” said Acting OSHA Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “Six of every 10 workers trapped in a grain bin don’t make it out alive. This is a frightening and tragic reality. Safety standards are in place to protect workers from serious and fatal injuries.”

Didion Milling has been in operation since 1972 and operates a corn milling and biofuels facility in Cambria.

In November 2017, Didion Milling was fined a total of $1.8 million for not complying with federal safety standards, which investigators say could have prevented the huge explosion that killed five workers and injured a dozen others. OSHA said that its five-month investigation found that the mill in Cambria failed to control highly combustible grain dust in its plant and did not properly inspect and maintain safety controls on equipment. The agency found similar violations during previous inspections of the plant between 2010 and 2014, and issued a number of fines for failing to install equipment to protect workers from combustible dust.

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