Thanks to Jim Sharpe, Sharpe's Point for permission to run this great story from the March 2010 Sharpe's Point on our website!
QUARRY OPERATOR WINS WALK-AROUND RIGHT CASE
A small Tennessee quarry operator took on MSHA ... and won.
Pat Stone could rightfully lay claim to victory Feb 5. That was the day following the deadline for MSHA to file an appeal of a judge's order vacating 10 citations against him.
Victory became evident when the deadline passed and no appeal was filed.
Readers of this publication will recognize Stone's case; it has appeared intermittently in Sharpe's Point since March 2009. For those who don't, here are the details: an inspector escorted Stone off the newly re-opened Old County Quarry west of Oak Ridge in December 2005 after he learned Stone had not received new miner training. Inspecting the property with Stone looking on helplessly from the gate, the inspector wrote 12 citations that carried a total fine of $1,087.
Stone appealed, arguing his walk-around right had been violated. Administrative Law Judge Jerold Feldman agreed and twice threw out the citations. MSHA appealed the judge's first dismissal order, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission returned the case to Feldman on remand.
Undeterred, Feldman threw out 10 of the citations all over again. Stone, 41, previously had reluctantly agreed to settle the other two because the walk-around issue had no bearing on them. Feldman's dismissal order Jan. 5 set the stage for MSHA to take 30 days to decide either to appeal again or drop the matter once and for all. Prudently, we believe, it chose the latter.
Asked how he felt about the win, Stone said, "I don't consider it a victory. I think it's a disgrace that it ever happened to start with."
Another reason Stone is not savoring the moment is because he is locked in another donnybrook with the Agency. He received a $25,000 fine in connection with a misfired explosive and although he's whittled the amount down to a trifling $100, he refuses to settle the dispute because he believes MSHA has this one wrong, too.
Many operators would consider themselves fortunate to be facing only the minimum fine and just hand over the money. But then Pat Stone isn't just any operator.