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OSHA cites ADM in dust explosion at Decatur grain elevator

Three employees suffered burns and other injuries in the April explosion.

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A lack of preventative maintenance on the explosion suppression system of a bucket elevator was a major factor in an April 20, 2023, explosion at ADM's West Plant in Decatur, Illinois, that resulted in the hospitalization of three employees with burns and other injuries and extensive damage to the grain elevator, federal investigators found. 

Investigators with OSHA responded to the combustible corn germ dust explosion determined that the explosion suppression system on the indoor bucket elevator leg was non-functional and in a state of disrepair. Investigators found the Decatur grain processing facility had not conducted inspections and testing of the explosion suppression systems since late 2016. 

OSHA cited ADM for two willful, one serious and one other-than-serious health and safety violations and proposed $324,796 in penalties related to this explosion at the West Plant. 

“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 in Peoria, Illinois.

“Agriculture dust can explode in mere seconds when an ignition source is readily available," he continued. "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.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply.

“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," said Jackie Anderson, spokesperson for ADM. "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.”

Other ADM incidents at Decatur facility

  • In April 2019, OSHA cited ADM for not inspecting and testing critical safety systems after a November 3, 2018, explosion at its East Campus caused extensive damage. As part of a formal settlement, the company agreed to conduct and document preventative maintenance on safety control equipment and to follow inspection procedures consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations. 
  • On January 4, 2019, an explosion and deflagration propagation event caused equipment and structural damage in the East Wet Milling Corn Plant and outdoor truck unloading bucket elevator legs. A detailed Hazard Alert Letter was issued to the company outlining concerns with the performance and documentation of equipment maintenance of explosion suppression and other systems.
  • OSHA currently has an open inspection at ADM’s East Plant in Decatur after another explosion and fire injured eight workers on September 10, 2023
  • Additionally, OSHA issued citations to the company on September 29, 2023, following its investigation of the April 11, 2023, death of a locomotive cab operator in a collision at ADM’s East Soy Plant. The agency cited a violation of the general duty clause after determining ADM had not ensured that crews positioned rail cars with sufficient clearance to prevent a collision. OSHA proposed $15,625 in penalties. 

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