Two companies contest citations in January fire fatality

File photoThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a citation with penalties totaling $55,894 against this Archer Daniels Midland facility in Clinton following a Jan. 5 fire and explosion that killed a Clinton firefighter. ADM is contesting the citation.

CLINTON – Two businesses are contesting citations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following a fire and explosion that killed a Clinton firefighter in January.

According to OSHA documents, OSHA investigated the City of Clinton Fire Department, Archer Daniels Midland Company and Bill Whitter’s Construction of Solon, a contractor onsite at the time of the incident.

OSHA cleared the Clinton Fire Department of safety and health violations but issued citations to ADM and Whitter’s Construction. The two businesses are contesting the citations, and, because the cases are in litigation, the investigation remains open, an OSHA employee explained.

The two cases are not indexed among fatality inspection data on the OSHA page of the United States Department of Labor website.

OSHA issued a citation and penalties totaling $55,894 against ADM for five serious violations, according to a penalty summary.

Item one of the citation includes the allegation that firefighters were not given adequate information to combat the fire. “Pertinent information relating to the type, amount and condition of the grain contained in the Silo #2 was not shared with the incoming emergency responders,” the OSHA report says.

“An incorrect assessment of the explosion risk and height of bridged product was disseminated to municipal fire fighters causing changes to their response. The existence and configuration of the inspection port located on the river side of the silo was not communicated to firefighting personnel. This significantly limited possible strategies to fight the fire,” the report says

Iowa OSHA alleges that ADM did not clearly define the roles and duties of personnel.

“During the fire and explosion incident occurring on 1/5/19, the role of Incident Commander was transferred to the Safety & Security Manager,” the Citation and Notification of Penalty report says. The manager is not identified in ADM’s Emergency Action Plan as an authorized person to perform the duties, and the action resulted in inappropriate or incomplete lines of communication, the report says.

ADM did not have a clear structure for coordination with outside responders, did not provide for the collection of relevant information in order to develop foreseeable scenarios during an emergency to ensure that all parties were integrated into communication and decision making and did not provide for the effective establishment of mutual command with outside agencies, the report says.

Before the fire and explosion, ADM noticed that product in the silo had become hot and was smoldering and black in color, according to the OSHA Citation and Notification of Penalty report. “A fire did or had existed” in the material in Silo No. 2 for at least two days, “exposing employees and outside contractors to fire and explosion hazards.”

OSHA alleges that the employer did not take steps to investigate or eliminate the potential fire hazard.

Item two of the citation alleges that ADM did not ensure that an employee responding to a fire was protected by proper respiratory protection. On the catwalk near Silo No. 2, an ADM employee leading municipal firefighters to the top of the silo was exposed to hazards associated with smoke inhalation and was forced to retreat, OSHA’s report says.

Item three alleges that ADM did not provide proper training in the use of firefighting equipment to employees who use standpipe systems in lieu of Class A portable fire extinguishers. Standpipes and 1 1/2-inch fire hoses are available throughout the ADM facility to be used during fire emergencies, the report says, but employees were not given training that simulate their use.

In item four of the citation, OSHA says that ADM’s training for employees who might fight incipient stage fires did not cover the general characteristics of incipient stage fires or potential complications relating to the size of the fire and its proximity to flammable materials or explosive environments.

Item five of the citation alleges that ADM failed to provide adequate training to employees acting as incident commander during fires.

“Pertinent information relating to the amount and condition of the grain contained in the silo was not gathered,” the report said. “This condition exposed employees, outside contracts and municipal firefighting personnel to heightened fire and explosion hazards during an incident occurring on 1/5/19,” the citation report says.

An ADM employee who was not trained in response to fire emergencies beyond the incipient stages led firefighters to the top of a grain silo, exposing himself to possible smoke inhalation, fall from a walkway or injury from debris in the event of an explosion, OSHA said. The employee did not utilize respiratory protection while entering an atmosphere potentially dangerous to life or health.

OSHA issued one penalty of $7,760 for one serious violation to Bill Whitter’s Construction, LLC, because employees assigned special tasks in the facility, such as bin entry and handling of flammable or toxic substances, were not provided training to perform these tasks safely, the report says.

Employees who provided assistance and support during firefighting efforts had not been trained to the level of his participation, the report says.

“Prior to the arrival of the Clinton Fire Department, employees took steps to fight a fire in Silo #2 rather than evacuate to the designated muster point,” the OSHA report says. “Employees were present inside the immediate area of the emergency to position vehicles and search for the missing fire fighters.”

The employees were not trained to respond to fire emergencies beyond the incipient stages, and their actions exposed them to the hazards of smoke inhalation, burns and flying debris in the event of an explosion, OSHA said.

The explosion at the ADM Clinton site took the life of Clinton Fire Lt. Eric Hosette and critically injured Firefighter Adam Cain while the men were fighting the fire. OSHA opened an investigation into the incident Jan. 7.

A native of Centerville, Winona comes to the Clinton Herald after writing for the Ottumwa Courier for two years.