International News

?Rogue? operator bares all in inspection fight

Officials from the US Department of Labor have sought an injunction that prohibits quarry owner Conrad J Smith from interfering or preventing its officials from inspecting and enforcing safety measures at his quarry.

Following up an anonymous tip, a mines inspector in mid-August visited Smith’s Brown’s Meadow Quarry, in Bangor, Penobscot County, Maine. He noticed the rim of the quarry pit lacked guardrails, in contravention of US regulations, and that there were several people and plant, along with a “significant amount” of aggregate, in a pit that was not supposed to be active. However, when the inspector tried to press these matters with Smith, the complaint papers allege, the quarry operator “turned his backside” to the inspector, “and bent over and exposed half of his naked posterior. ‘I’m bending over now. Give me what you want,’” Smith purportedly mocked.

Smith subsequently thwarted a follow-up visit by two federal inspectors at the beginning of September, closing off access to the quarry.

At a hearing on 18 November that Smith failed to attend, federal justice John Woodcock granted the Department of Labor a temporary restraining order against Smith, prohibiting him from obstructing further investigations and enforcement actions at Brown’s Meadows Quarry.

Inactive status

This is not the first time Smith has been accused of safety infringements. In 2010, the quarry was accused of having no mandated safety chains on high pressure air lines, no railings or warning signs in particular locations within the pit, unlabelled power switches and unsecured oxygen tanks. However, a year later, federal bureaucrats dropped legal action against Smith when they were convinced he was being more co-operative with Mine Safety and Health Administration inspections.

Now Smith appears to be on even shakier ground, as in the latest complaint, federal officials maintain that his quarry should not be operating at all. They argue that as Smith’s quarry was placed into inactive status in February 2014, no quarrying activities should be occurring there.

Smith denied that he was actively involved in quarry operations and refused to provide the first inspector with the names of other people on the site. The Department of Labor believes that Smith’s “employees” have not been adequately trained in quarrying operations, again in contravention of US regulations.

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