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Clinton firefighter 1

Clinton City Administrator Matt Brooke points to the silo at the Clinton ADM plant where a fire and explosion killed Clinton Fire Lt. Eric Hosette and critically injured firefighter Adam Cain on Jan. 5, 2019.

Clinton officials said the details in OSHA documents that proposed fines for two companies involved in a January grain silo explosion are "not surprising."

The explosion and fire killed Clinton Fire Department Lt. Eric Hosette and severely injured firefighter Adam Cain.

Companies Archer Daniels Midland and Bill Whitter's Construction have been cited by Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violations relating to the Jan. 5 explosion and fire at ADM in Clinton. ADM was issued five violations for a total of $55,894. Bill Whitter's Construction in Solon was issued one violation for $7,760.

The Clinton Herald reports that ADM is contesting the nearly $56,000 in penalties proposed by the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Bill Whitter's Construction is contesting a penalty of nearly $7,800.

Iowa OSHA issued ADM five citations, including one that said firefighters were not given adequate information to combat the fire.

"The Clinton Herald story for the most part mirrors the Fire Department and the City’s understanding of the events and of OSHA’s response to those events, Clinton City Administrator Matt Brooke said in a news release Wednesday. "City officials are reviewing the information with legal counsel."

All citations issued are listed as "serious" citations. The first alleges that "the employer did not furnish employment which was free from hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees in that employees were exposed to fire and explosion hazards." That includes a situation in which the employer did not take action to fix a fire hazard.

"During efforts to break up and remove bridged material from Silo #2, it was discovered that the debris had become hot and was smoldering and black in color," the report reads. "For at least two days, a fire did or had existed in the material exposing employees and outside contractors to fire and explosion hazards." 

Another issue at fault concerned a lack of providing for an effective establishment of mutual command. "Pertinent information relating to the type, amount and condition of the grain contained in Silo #2 was not shared with the emergency responders," the report reads. In addition, an incorrect assessment of the explosion risk and height of bridged products was disseminated and the existence and configuration of the inspection port located on the river side of the silo was not communicated, "significantly" hindering possible strategies for combating the fire.

The report also alleges ADM employees were not provided with training to use items like standpipe systems or fire hoses. A digital system was utilized to simulate firefighting with an extinguisher, not a fire hose. An educational program was also not provided to ADM employees, including the general characteristics of fires still in their beginning stage and its proximity to flammable materials or explosive environments. 

Other violations note an ADM employee was exposed to hazards relating to smoke inhalation and was forced to retreat. The report alleges ADM did not ensure that employee was protected by proper respiratory protection, nor was adequate and effective training given to employees who responded to the emergency on Jan. 5.

Bill Whitter's Construction received a serious violation under the standard of training, indicating that employees assigned special tasks like bin entry and handling of flammable or toxic substances shall be provided training to perform those tasks safely. "Employees provided assistance and support during firefighting efforts had not been trained to the level of this participation," the report reads. "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. This exposed them to the hazards of smoke inhalation, burns and struck-by hazards in the event of an explosion." 

Both ADM and Bill Whitter's Construction are challenging their respective violations, the Clinton Herald reports.

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