CAMBRIA, WISCONSIN, US — Didion Milling Inc. was cited by the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following an investigation about an engulfment death at the company’s Cambria, Wisconsin, US, grain facility.
On Dec. 8, 2020, a worker who was clearing corn debris from an unsafe silo failed to arrive for a regularly scheduled meeting, employees called 911 when they could not find him at the silo, nor reach him by phone. It took emergency services nine hours to recover the body of the 52-year-old manager, Randal Rote, found engulfed in the silo operated by Didion Milling.
The 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 willful 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 William Donovan, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago, Illinois, US. “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.”
While Didion was saddened by the loss of one of their employees the company does not agree with OSHA's findings.
"The loss of a member of our Didion work family is tragic and leaves a lasting impact," the company said in a statement. "Our hearts remain with our team member's family. While re respect OSHA and the important work it performs, we disagree with their conclusions and will work with OSHA to address those concerns while always striving to improve our safety program. OSHA's regulations establish the base for our safety programs but our commitment to safety goes well beyond OSHA requirements, We will remain steadfastly committed to safety as we move forward."
In May 2017, an explosion and large fire occurred at Didion Milling’s corn mill killing 5 people and injuring 15. Following an investigation OSHA proposed a $1.8 million fine after determining 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.
OSHA also noted another incident that occurred in October 2020 that nearly engulfed an employee who was cleaning the inside of a grain bin.
Didion Milling is a Wisconsin-based, family-owned agricultural processing business. According to Sosland Publishing’s 2020 Grain & Milling Annual, the Cambria facility has 4.2 million bushels of storage capacity.