Questions and answers about workplace explosions

June 3, 2017 GMT

Some questions and answers about workplace explosions:

Q: How often are people killed in workplace fires or explosions?

A: From 2011 to 2015, Wisconsin workplace fires or explosions killed 104 workers, including 10 in farm, fishing or forestry occupations. Three of the deaths were caused primarily by explosions.

Q: How common are explosions caused by grain dust?

A: 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.

Q: What is being done to protect workers?

A: The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces workplace safety standards. In grain handling facilities, standards address controlling the highly flammable dust and sources of excess heat, flames and sparks.

Q: How often does OSHA conduct workplace inspections?

A: OSHA compliance officers conduct inspections in response to complaints or reported injuries and fatalities.


Q: Aren’t there regularly scheduled inspections?

A: Not for grain-processing plants. But OSHA does schedule inspections in high-risk industries based on a variety of factors, focusing on companies with repeated violations of the highest severity.

Q: What kinds of violations have been found at Didion Milling?

A: In the last 10 years, Didion Milling has been cited for several “serious” violations that posed potential for serious injury or death, but none in the “willful” category, which also involves indifference to safety. In 2013 Didion was fined $3,456 for failing to control dust that could have exploded. In 2010 it was fined $3,640 when a wooden support broke causing a worker to fall and suffer bone fractures and a brain injury. Details of violations that led to several other fines weren’t immediately available.

Q: How much can a company be fined?

A: Until 2016, the upper limit was $7,000 for a serious violation and $70,000 for a willful or repeated violation. The amounts were increased last year to $12,600 for serious violations and $126,000 for willful or repeated violations.

Sources: OSHA, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics