Local and national safety advocacy groups say a tragic explosion at a corn mill in Cambria, Wisconsin, points to the need for beefed-up enforcement of safety laws and regulations.
Three employees of a corn milling company were killed as the result of a June 1 explosion that also injured several workers and leveled the facility. In 2011, the business was cited by OSHA for failing to equip its facility with equipment to protect against ignition and explosion of dust from grain accumulating inside the mill. OSHA ordered the mill to correct the problems; that case was reportedly closed in 2013.
Jim Schultz, executive director of the Wisconsin Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (WisCOSH) commented, “Our prayers are with the victims and families of this terrible event.” He said the three workers “lost their lives working in a grain mill, where explosions caused by dust are known as a preventable hazard.”
He added, “Employers are always talking about the cost of fines, and how it hurts their business. We also need to focus on the terrible cost to workers and the price paid by families when workers are put at risk in an unsafe environment.” The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which has been targeted for closure in the proposed federal budget, has recommended a general industry combustible dust standard to prevent such tragic events.
Sixteen people were working at the facility at the time of the explosion. The family-owned business employs more than 200 people who are involved in storing, milling, and transporting corn products. Investigations into the incident are under way.