One bad apple.
Aggregates producers are largely hard working, honest and follow the letter of the law. When it comes to MSHA inspections, no one likes the scrutiny, but being professionals, operations deal with it.
The vast majority of producers go out of their way to maintain a positive image, and value their place in the community. But one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
Rock Products columnist Ellen Smith this month details one such bad apple in her piece "Small Iowa Operator Continues To Defy MSHA Citations, Orders" on page 53.
She details how Review Commission ALJ Priscilla Rae assessed $30,000 in penalties against an openly hostile sand and gravel operator, calling him to task for assaulting an MSHA inspector, and pointing out discrepancies between his stories and evidence submitted during trial.
Judge Rae said that despite a November 2004, court order, Jay Jeppesen, owner of Jeppesen Gravel, has failed to cooperate with MSHA inspections, and said that his intentional and deliberate conduct, including criminal assault and battery, was intentional and deliberate and constitutes recklessness.
Judge Rae detailed how when two inspectors went to the mine on Oct. 1, 2012, the owner told them to wait in their vehicle, and then called the sheriff. When the sheriff arrived and the inspectors attempted an inspection, the owner blocked their way.
During the October 2012, denial of entry, Jeppesen instructed the sheriff to arrest the two inspectors and tow their vehicle from the property. The sheriff refused to do so, and remained to keep the peace. The judge noted that Jeppesen's son pushed his shoulder into the inspector's chest, and this was verified by the sheriff's report and testimony.
Jeppesen did not deny this, but said he was angry with the manner in which the inspectors arrived on mine property. He claimed that MSHA trespassed on a 3/4 mile private road, and suggested the MSHA inspectors should be compelled to use a helicopter to get to his mine site.
I think you get the picture. Engaging in this type of boorish behavior is no way to run a business, invites further MSHA scrutiny, and most importantly, reflects badly on the entire industry.
The aggregates industry has spent many years developing a positive image. This is no time to go backwards.
Mark S. Kuhar, editor