SULLIVAN, Maine — The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a court complaint against a local man in connection with multiple alleged workplace safety violations at a granite quarry he owns and operates on Track Road.
Conrad J. Smith and his Sullivan Granite Co. LLC are accused of using unsafe equipment and operating in unsafe conditions, according to a complaint filed Nov. 4 in federal court in Bangor.
Among the alleged safety violations were a lack of safety chains or suitable locking devices on high-pressure air lines, a lack of railings or warning signs in certain locations in the quarry, unlabeled power switches and unsecured oxygen tanks, according to the complaint. Inspectors also cited several defects with a generator and a crane Smith has been using at the quarry, among other things. Federal officials claim in the document that the alleged conditions are violations of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.
Smith also has been uncooperative in allowing inspectors onto his property, according to the document.
John Chavez, spokesman for the Department of Labor’s regional office in Boston, said Tuesday that the purpose of the complaint is to compel Smith to allow the safety inspections of his quarry to continue and to comply with federal mining safety laws.
“The whole point of this is to prevent the defendant from refusing entry” by inspectors to the quarry, Chavez said. “We have asked the court to prohibit the defendants from operating the quarry [until the equipment and safety violations are addressed].”
Attempts this week by the Bangor Daily News to contact Smith have been unsuccessful. Voice mail messages left Monday and Tuesday at a listed phone number for Sullivan Granite Co. were not returned.
Chavez said that federal mining inspectors have been trying since at least July 2009 to get Smith to comply with mining safety laws. He said Smith was fined $5,478 last year for safety violations, but that the fines have yet to be paid.
Smith has 21 days from Nov. 10 to file a response to the court complaint, according to Chavez. He said no court hearing on the matter has been scheduled.
Chavez said the department’s hope is that a court order prohibiting Smith from operating the quarry until the safety measures are met will give Smith added incentive to comply with the law.
“We have to assume Mr. Smith respects the rule of law,” Chavez said.
This past summer, federal officials paid visits to Brown’s Meadow Quarry in June, July and September to inspect equipment being used at the quarry and to discuss possible compliance procedures with Smith, but Smith was not receptive to the visits, according to the complaint. Smith frequently became agitated during the visits and more than once left the quarry after inspectors had showed up to conduct compliance checks, federal officials claim in the document.
Inspectors had tagged certain pieces of equipment at the quarry, barring them from further use until they were brought up to mandated standards, but Smith allegedly removed the tags and continued to use the equipment without making the required improvements, according to the complaint.
Federal officials say in the complaint that during a July 14 site visit, Smith admitted to inspectors that he operated equipment they had told him not to use.
“Defendant Smith claimed that he needed the equipment to make a living,” the complaint indicates. “He also admitted to removing and burning the red closure tags placed on equipment by inspectors.”
On a subsequent site visit, Smith continued to show displeasure with the attempted inspections, according to the document. When inspectors arrived at the quarry on Sept. 14, the complaint indicates, “Defendant Smith became enraged and screamed for the inspectors to leave his property.”
Inspectors did so, but not before giving Smith 30 minutes to reconsider. Several minutes later, while inspectors waited outside the mine site, Smith drove by an inspector’s vehicle and “made an obscene gesture with his middle finger before speeding up” and driving away, the complaint indicates.
The complaint seeks to prevent Smith or anyone working “in active concert” with him from interfering or refusing to cooperate with inspectors or otherwise from hindering enforcement of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.