DECATUR. Ill. (WCIA) — Archer-Daniels-Midland is facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines after federal authorities said they found maintenance failure on the company’s part to blame for an April dust explosion at a grain elevator in Decatur.
The U.S. Department of Labor said an OSHA investigation revealed the elevator’s explosion suppression system was nonfunctional and in a state of disrepair on April 20. Investigators also found that the system hadn’t been inspected or tested since late 2016.
The explosion resulted in three employees being hospitalized with burns and other injuries.
“ADM knows the important role maintenance and testing plays in protecting the lives and health of their workers and their property from two previous explosions and yet failed to follow common industry practices and Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards to maintain these protective systems,” said OSHA Area Director Edward Marshall, based in Peoria. “Agriculture dust can explode in mere seconds when an ignition source is readily available. Dispersion of the dust particles can lead to rapid combustion known as deflagration. It causes explosions, worker injuries and extensive damage, as we saw in this case.”
OSHA cited ADM for four violations and fined the company almost $325,000 in connection to this explosion.
In addition, the company was fined for another accident that happened just nine days before the explosion, and it involved an employee being killed.
On April 11, 66-year-old Robert Dautel died following a rail car collision in the complex’s rail yard. OSHA determined ADM did not ensure crew-positioned rail cars had enough clearance to prevent a collision.
Citing a violation of the General Duty Clause of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA fined ADM almost $16,000 following the investigation into Dauel’s death.
In addition to these investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor has several others that are still open, looking into working conditions at ADM. One was opened last month after another explosion at the East Plant left eight employees hospitalized on Sept. 10.
A three-alarm fire also broke out at the complex’s corn processing plant on Aug. 28.
The Department of Labor has also opened investigations into ADM in the past for other fiery or explosive events happening at the complex. A Nov. 3, 2018, explosion at the East Plant resulted in a court settlement between the Department of Labor and ADM; the company would pay $9,000, conduct and document preventative maintenance on safety control equipment and follow inspection procedures consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Two months after that explosion, however, another explosion and “deflagration propagation event” caused equipment and structural damage to the East Wet Milling Corn Plant. The company faced no fines for that event, instead receiving a detailed Hazard Alert Letter to outline OSHA concerns.
When reached for comment about OSHA’s latest fines, ADM Spokesperson Jackie Anderson provided the following statement:
Safety is our highest priority at ADM, and we are committed to learning and improving when an operational event occurs so that it does not happen again. We have cooperated fully with OSHA during their investigation of the incident at the West Plant elevator in April. We are reviewing OSHA’s concerns, and we look forward to discussing them further with the agency.Jackie Anderson, ADM Spokesperson