OSHA can fine Cranesville Aggregate, court finds

Company contested agency's authority to fine it nearly $500,000
Cranesville Aggregate.
Cranesville Aggregate.

GLENVILLE — A Glenville company remains on the hook for nearly $500,000 in workplace safety fines, following a recent appeals court ruling.

A federal appeals court found the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the authority to cite the local mining company for safety violations at the Glenville building where sand is processed for use in concrete products.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City ruled unanimously Monday that the U.S. Secretary of Labor has the authority to determine that OSHA has jurisdiction at Cranesville Aggregate’s bagging operation, rather than the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Both are workplace safety agencies within the Department of Labor.

In doing so, the three judges reversed a finding by a Department of Labor administrative law judge and a Department of Labor internal commission that was split on the question.

“We conclude that the Secretary reasonably determined that the cited workplace conditions were subject to OSHA regulation,” the court wrote.

The case concerned Cranesville Aggregate, also known as Cranesville Block, which operates a sand and gravel mining operation on Sacandaga Road, just outside the Scotia village line. After an employee complaint in 2009, OSHA conducted an inspection at the “bag plant” and found a number of worker safety violations. Fines were initially proposed at more than $500,000.

Cranesville, however, contested OSHA’s authority over its sand and concrete pre-mix bagging operation, saying it falls under the jurisdiction of a different federal agency that enforces mining laws: the Mine Safety and Health Administration. OSHA enforces workplace safety rules at manufacturing sites.

Cranesville and the Department of Labor entered a settlement on $42,300 in fines, subject to OSHA’s authority being confirmed. Another $452,000 in proposed fines are still potentially subject to administrative review, now that the jurisdictional question is decided.

During the administrative hearing, Cranesville argued activity inside the bag plant was part of the milling process, which is considered a mining activity. The Department of Labor at the hearing argued that the drying and bagging of sand is a manufacturing process subject to OSHA inspections.

The court noted a memorandum of understanding between OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration signed in 1979 foresaw the potential for such conflicts and left final decisions about jurisdictional issues to the Secretary of Labor.

The court found operations at the bag plant fall “somewhere between the termination of the milling cycle and beginning of the manufacturing cycle … The Secretary’s determination that the cited conditions at the Bag Plant were subject to OSHA authority was a reasonable construction of the Mine Act.”

The attorney who represented Cranesville Aggregate, Walter Breakall, of Albany, did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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