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~ Kathy M.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

OIAA and MSHA Meeting:

Genoa Ingram, Court Street Consulting
Jim Tharpe, Sharpe's Point
Cary Matthews, La Pine Redi Mix, Inc.

We have been traveling back and forth to Salem frequently to attend board meetings for an association that we belong to, the Oregon Independent Aggregate Association. OIAA was formed last October, and our first main issue to be dealt with was MSHA, otherwise known as the Mine Safety Health Association. MSHA is under the Department of Labor, and inspects coal mines, metal and non-metal mines, rock crushers and drilling operations.

Recently, they have increased the dollar amount of the fines, and have put in this tricky little thing called pattern of violations. Pattern of Violation reminds me of levels in a video game ... if you have a certain number of citations in a certain amount of time, your fines increase from about $250 each to $20,000 or more. Tickets have been written for an unflushed toilet, not giving good enough directions and for nuts and bolts on a shop floor when the loader guy is sorting them between loads. This is something that really hurts, and, in some cases even destroys small companies. Also, there has been a lot of inconsistency in what is a deemed a violation or not. One inspector may say something looks fine, and the next one writes you a ticket when nothing has changed.

On top of all that, in the Western District, where Oregon is, there have been a few (not many) inspectors who are aggressive and antagonistic, treating the mine owners with rudeness and unprofessional behavior, as they write these huge tickets. I know this sounds like exaggeration and slanted reporting, but trust me, it is true.

That is the background. We have tried to go up through the ranks and get some of these issues addressed, both locally and regionally. For a while, we did not get much help. Then, something rather amazing and good happened. On Wednesday, one of the head people from MSHA, Neil Merrifield, came out to meet with our small association. Also in attendance were Arthur Ellis, the head of the Western District and John Pereza. We were also fortunate enough to have Jim Sharpe, from the industry online magazine called Sharpe's Point attend our meeting.

The meeting was very positive, and we felt as if our voices were heard. Hopefully we will be seeing some changes, as mine owners, in how we are treated by MSHA and with consistency on the part of the inspectors. We very much appreciate Mr. Merrifield and the others coming out to meet with us.

There will be more about the specifics of the discussion on my Preparing for an MSHA Inspection website when I get a chance to get the report written. To get to that, click on the eagle on the sidebar.

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