Wisconsin Explosion Kills Four

A fourth man has died from a massive explosion that occurred May 31, 2017 at a Cambria, Wisconsin corn mill. His name was not yet  released as of June 5, pending notification of his kin. The cause of the deadly blast at the Didion Milling Plant has not yet been determined.

The Dead

The third man found dead was identified last week as Pawel Tordoff, 21, a packing machine operator. Didion officials said the company had located his body beneath the ruins on Wednesday, but were not able to recover it until early Sunday, June 4. Mr. Tordoff was married, with a 3-month-old son. A GoFundMe page has been set up for his surviving family.

The explosion also killed 27-year-old Duelle Block, a mill operator, and 53-year-old Robert Goodenow, a forklift driver.

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Sixteen men were working at the mill when it exploded. Eleven had been taken to hospitals, according to Didion’s vice president of operations Derrick Clark.

Didion Milling Violations

Didion Milling has been cited for several “serious” violations in the last 10 years, violations that posed potential for serious injury or death. In 2013, Didion was fined $3,456 for failing to control potentially exploding dust. In 2010, it was fined $3,640 when a wooden support broke and caused a worker to fall and suffer a brain injury and broken bones. Details of violations that led to several other fines weren’t readily available, according to Wisconsin State Journal writer Steven Verberg. None of the violations fell in the “willful” category, which includes indifference to safety.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the local fire department assisted in recovering the dead in Cambria, which is located about an hour north of Madison, the Wisconsin state capital.

Wisconsin Explosion Deaths

Mr. Verberg reports that Wisconsin workplace fires or explosions killed 104 workers, including 10 in farm, fishing or forestry jobs from 2011-2014.  Three of the deaths were caused by explosions.

U.S. Explosion Deaths

More than 500 grain dust explosions have been reported in the U.S. in the last 35 years, killing more than 180 people and injuring more than 675.

Worker Protections?

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is entrusted to enforce workplace safety standards. In grain handling facilities such as Didion, standards address controlling the highly flammable dust and sources of excess heat, flames and sparks. OSHA compliance officers usually conduct inspections only in response to complaints or reported injury accidents. OSHA does not perform regularly scheduled inspections, though it does schedule inspections in high-risk industries based on several factors. It focuses on companies with repeated violations of the highest severity.

OSHA Fines for Violations

OSHA increased fine amounts in 2016 to $12,600 for serious violations, $126,000 for willful or repeated violations.

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