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Milling company agrees $11.25 million payout in relation to dust explosion that killed five

29 September 2023

US milling company Didion Milling has reached a plea deal in relation to federal charges stemming from a grain dust explosion that killed five employees in May 2017 at the company’s plant in Cambria, Wisconsin. Didion will plead guilty to employees falsifying records in the years leading up to the incident and pay a $1 million (£815,000) fine, as well as a $10.25 million (£8.3m) payout to the estates of the five victims.

Image: US Chemical Safety Board
Image: US Chemical Safety Board

The payout comes a month after Didion agreed to pay $940,000 (£740,000) to settle a lawsuit with the state of Wisconsin which alleged multiple safety violations, including failure to inspect equipment, control emissions, detect leaks, and keep accurate reports.

As part of the latest payout, Didion Milling has pleaded guilty to falsifying records and agreed to undergo a five year organisation probation that will see federal inspectors visit the Cambria mill without notice up to two times a year.

In May 2022, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the company, a company Vice President, two environmental coordinators and three additional supervisors with crimes related to worker safety, fraud, air pollution and obstruction of justice.

Three of the officials – Derrick Clark, who was Vice President of Operations, Shawn Mesner, who was Food Safety Superintendent, and James Lentz, who was Environmental Manager – are set to stand trial on 2 October in Madison, Wisconsin.

According to the indictment, Didion Milling wilfully violated two federal safety standards under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) at its Cambria plant by failing to develop and implement a written program to effectively prevent and remove combustible grain dust accumulations, as well as failing to install explosion venting or explosion suppression on a dust filter collector. These two failings thereby caused the deaths of five employees due to a combustible dust explosion on 31 May 2017, it concluded.

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