Explosion survivor, company president react to OSHA report
The president of Didion Milling, Inc, and a survivor of a deadly corn milling plant explosion reacted to a report released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). At $1.8 million dollars, it's the largest proposed penalty for a single inspection in the state of Wisconsin, according to OSHA records.
The report follows an explosion that killed five workers and injured a dozen others at the Didion Milling Plant in May.
NBC15 spoke with Riley Didion, president of Didion Milling, Inc. and one thing he made clear was, the company does not agree with the report.
According to a release by OSHA, they found the explosion 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 received 19 citations and was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
Didion said they are not commenting on any of the violations specifically because they're still sifting through the documents.
"Now is when we dig in, because in part of the process you're trying to decipher what is happening and what may come out, but now that we have it the only thing I can say is we'll start to dig in so that we know what our next steps will be," says Didion. "We'll work with OSHA. We'll work with OSHA through this process on what does that timeline look like."
The company is working with their legal counsel to determine how to address the report's findings.
Didion Milling plans to rebuild a new state-of-the-art mill in Cambria. They plan to use the latest technology and industry best practices. Didion explains why these measures weren't implemented in the current facility.
"Technology changes, there's certain thing you're able to do. Safety is paramount to us, whether it was regardless of the time.That's always been paramount, but there are other things you can do differently."
For the Wade family, the report brought back the raw emotions from the explosion on May 31. Alex Wade survived the blast, and while he hasn't read the
, the images from that day are still fresh in his mind.
"I don't care to see it. I don't want to go back to the accident or anything like that," says Wade. "I haven't been back there since. I don't plan on going there anytime soon."
Even though Wade lives ten minutes from the mill, he still keeps in close contact with the survivors, including his friend Collin Vander Galien, and those that still work at the mill.
Wade was with Vander Galien during the night of the explosion. Vander Galien lost both of his legs when a rail car fell on him.
He hopes the report not only brings closure fore him, but more importantly, for those who lost loved ones.
"It's not about the dollar signs, it's about closure and being able to move on, being able to keep going with life, and keep pushing and everything like that, being able to build a new life. It's not just a career you're starting over. You're starting over. Collin is learning to walk again, how to drive again, and everything like that. It's so much more than dollar signs and a career, there's a lot more to it."
NBC15's Amy Pflugshaupt spoke with Vander Galien on Friday, and says he respectfully declined to comment on the OSHA report because he is still sorting through it.
OSHA has proposed $1,837,861 in fines against Didion Milling, Inc.
OSHA said they cited the Cambria facility with 14 willful, including eight willful per-instance egregious, and five serious citations, most involving fire and explosion hazards.
OSHA defines a serous violation as a "violation exists when the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm, unless the employer did not know or could not have known of the violation."
OSHA describes a willful violation as "a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety."
“Didion Milling could have prevented this tragedy if it had addressed hazards that are well-known in this industry,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha, 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.”
Those violations include operating equipment without fire protection systems, failure to properly train employees, not getting scheduled inspections and not having an emergency disaster plan in place.
Didion Milling has 15 business days to comply, request an information conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
You can read the entire OSHA Citation report by
Didion Milling’s official statement on OSHA’s release
“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.”
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