A clogged dryer, and two employees trying to dislodge the blockage, resulting in one thousand gallons of 200-degree water releasing, severely burning one of the workers, according to an account released last week of the June 3 incident at a Sleepy Eye, Minnesota manufacturing facility.

Balchem, the company that owns the factory that makes powdered creamers at 301 Main St. W., provided its account of what led to the injury in a report to the state’s occupational safety division.

In the report, a copy of which the state released, a Balchem official wrote “this is the first product clog of this nature that the site has experienced.”

When confronted with this “non-routine challenge,” the employees used “non-standard and non-approved techniques” to try to remove the blockage after the standard process didn’t work, including running an additional hot water cycle and opening the equipment, and did not elevate the concern to site leadership, according to the company’s report. The accident happened June 3 at 3:30 a.m.

Juan Montemayor, 51, suffered life-threatening burns over about two-thirds of his body and has been undergoing treatment at Regions Hospital Burn Center in St. Paul.

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His wife, Celese, said in a Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch report she had not had a chance to review Balchem’s account in detail, but she pushed back on any suggestion in the report that Juan acted without sufficient approval, and added other workers contributed to the blockage he was trying to remove by not properly cleaning the machinery during a prior shift.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s Occupational Safety and Health Division marked the Balchem report, which also detailed the safety measures it took after the accident, as “satisfactory.” That means no further action is required of the company, a department spokesman said.

Following its internal investigation, Balchem identified seven action items to help it prevent a repeat of what happened, according to its report to the state.

Among them, the company said it is reviewing how to prevent such severe clogging of product, evaluating modifications to its dryers and reviewing its hot water temperature range, which it will try to reduce if possible.

Meanwhile, Montemayor is making strides in his recovery. His daughter, Maurissa reported the doctors said Juan will likely be able to go home sooner than they expected, though return trips for treatment will be frequent.


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