No Whey: Dust Explosion at Milk Specialties Stirs Up OSHA Fines

OSHA opened an inspection following a report of a fire resulting from a dust explosion in a machine at the company's Fond du Lac, Wis., facility, which converts liquid whey products into dried whey protein concentrate powder.

OSHA has cited Milk Specialties Co. with three safety violations, including one willful violation for combustible dust hazards. OSHA opened an inspection following a report of a fire resulting from a dust explosion in a machine at the company's Fond du Lac, Wis., facility, which converts liquid whey products into dried whey protein concentrate powder. Proposed fines total $72,000.

In addition to the willful violation, the inspection found two other-than-serious violations involving failing to properly maintain OSHA 300 logs for 2011 describing days lost by employees or days when work activities were restricted.

As part of the inspection, OSHA subpoenaed two of the company's reports: a five-year strategic plan for combustible dust and a combustible dust review report prepared by Milk Specialties' vice president of environmental health and safety. Milk Specialties Co. would not provide the documents, citing attorney/client and attorney/work product privileges. Following a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Judge J.P. Stadtmueller ruled on Feb. 8 that the documents constitute business advice and ordered the company to provide them to OSHA.

Milk Specialties Co. is part of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Milk Specialties Global Food Solutions, which is a division of Carpentersville, Ill.-based Milk Specialties Global. Milk Specialties Global and its divisions operate additional manufacturing facilities in Adell, Boscobel, and New Holstein., Wis., as well as Mountain Lake, Minn. Prior to this inspection, OSHA conducted multiple inspections at the Wisconsin facilities and cited a total of 52 violations, including 48 in 2009 at a now-closed facility in Whitehall.

"This employer previously was cited for failing to comply with OSHA's safety regulations. Failing to take appropriate precautions to protect workers from combustible dust explosions and fires is an unnecessary risk," said Frank Winingham, OSHA's area director in Appleton. "OSHA is committed to protecting workers on the job, especially when employers fail to do so."

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