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June 16, 2021
Milling facility facing $676K in fines

A Wisconsin milling facility is facing a proposed $676,808 in penalties for health and safety violations following a fatal grain engulfment accident; it took emergency services 9 hours to recover the body of the 52-year-old manager. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Didion Milling, Inc., of Cambria, Wisconsin, with 4 willful and 10 serious violations.

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“Didion Milling’s failure to learn from recent incidents and follow industry standards and their own company policies cost this worker’s life,” OSHA’s Acting Chicago Regional Administrator William Donovan said in a statement.

“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.”

OSHA cited Didion Milling with four willful, serious violations of the grain-handling facilities standard, including failing to:

  • Ensure that mechanical equipment is de-energized to prevent operation during employee entry when such operation would pose an engulfment hazard from potential grain movement.
  • Prohibit employees from “walking down grain” to clear the bottom of a grain bin or silo.
  • Ensure that an observer is stationed outside a bin or silo during employee entry.
  • Ensure that employees do not enter a bin or silo where a buildup of grain products on the sides presents an engulfment hazard.

OSHA inspectors determined that a manager was fatally injured December 8, 2020, after entering an unsafe grain bin despite having an external process underway to remove corn from the clogged silo. When the manager failed to arrive for a regularly scheduled meeting, Didion Milling employees called 911 after they could not find him at the silo or reach him by telephone.

The agency also determined that the external process should have continued for several more days before allowing anyone to enter the grain bin.

OSHA also cited Didion Milling for other serious violations of the grain-handling facilities standard, as well as the electrical protective equipment and lockout/tagout standards.

Didion Milling has been in operation since 1972, according to OSHA. The company operates a corn milling and biofuels (ethanol) facility in Cambria and production facilities in Markesan and Johnson Creek. Other recent incidents involving Didion Milling include a May 2017 explosion that killed 5 workers and injured as many as 15 others and a large grain shelf collapse in October 2020 that nearly engulfed an employee who was cleaning the inside of a grain bin.

OSHA’s grain-handling safety standard (29 CFR 1910.272) focuses on the grain and feed industry’s six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, “struck by,” combustible dust explosions, and electrocution hazards. The agency has established collaborations with the Grain Elevator and Processing Society, Grain-Handling Safety Coalition, and National Grain and Feed Association to address industry hazards.

OSHA resources for agricultural operations employers include links to information about the agency’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program and other Department of Labor farmwork programs, industry publications, and state resources.

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