Thanks to Jim Sharpe, Sharpe’s Point for this succinct article.
$afepro is in absolute agreement with this analysis!
WEIGH SCALE CHANGES MAY BE MONEY WASTED
After serious money has been spent to abate MSHA citations for allegedly inadequate roll-off protection for trucks on weigh scales at aggregate mine sites, the Agency is reconsidering its position on the matter.
Metal/Non-Metal Administrator Neil Merrifield
told a group of
Aggregate producers have vehemently opposed the Agency initiative, which began some two years ago, even though scales at many mines have remained unchanged for decades and federal inspectors have historically shown no inclination to require changes. Many scales already come equipped with so-called rub rails, which are designed to alert drivers of the slow-moving trucks when the vehicles stray off-course. Operators have argued this design is sufficient, and have challenged the Agency to produce accident data demonstrating other- wise. No substantive data have been offered.
In an effort to provide guidance, the Agency released a PowerPoint presentation in October 2009 and followed up with a Program Policy Letter (PPL) a year ago. The PPL set a so-called 16-inch rule whereby scales with a drop-off of 16 inches or less required rub rails at least six inches high. For steeper drop-offs, one option was barriers mid-axle high. Neither the PowerPoint nor the PPL did much to stem the controversy.
Inevitably, the matter spilled into the courts. Some
operators sought legal redress despite a handful of earlier decisions
that had gone MSHA’s way. In two recent cases, judges have granted
producers relief. Last year, Knife River Corp. won a case involving
a quarry in
Judges have ruled MSHA may enforce its berm
standard on weigh scales. Moreover, if scales are unguarded and
a potential drop-off hazard exists, a citation is likely to stand. However,
the situation is different if rub rails are present, as was so at
Meanwhile, since MSHA has begun its enforcement
campaign, operators have been forced to redirect financial resources
already strained by the economic downturn into correcting what they
see as a non-problem. After claiming his employer has spent about
$250,000 alone, a
As a result, Merrifield’s statement that MSHA was having second thoughts was not greeted especially warmly at the August meeting. A state executive stated the obvious by reportedly telling Merrifield it would have been better had MSHA considered its position more carefully at the outset before forcing operators to commit funds. A disgruntled MSHA supervisor remarked that affected operators might have a legal claim against the government.
Asked how the matter ever got started in the first place, two Agency sources laid the blame on MSHA’s Office of Accountability (OA). OA was formed in 2007 to assure that recommendations from internal review reports following major accidents were implemented. Its role has been expanded to improve compliance by the Agency’s inspectorate with all MSHA policies, practices and procedures. An insider in a position to know indicated someone within MSHA was severely chastened for pushing the Agency’s enforcement position on rub rails. He predicted the PPL would just quietly be forgotten.
Maybe. If MSHA is separating itself from the PPL, then why has the Agency chosen to appeal the Lakeview decision? Our source had no answer. (Highlite by $afepro)