Court Upholds Conviction of Pipe Company, Managers for String of Safety Violations

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A federal appeals court on Sept. 17 upheld the convictions and sentencing of a New Jersey pipe manufacturer and four managers over multiple violations of worker safety and environmental laws (United States v. Maury, 3d Cir., No. 09-2305, 9/17/12).

The appeal included arguments related to pretrial discovery, the district court's handling of the trial, jury instructions, and sentencing. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected those arguments, and in its opinion commended the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey for its “fine handling of these extraordinarily complicated proceedings.”

Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co. and four of its managers were convicted in April 2006 on charges that they exposed employees to dangerous conditions at its Phillipsburg, N.J., facility and impeded federal regulatory and criminal investigations, prosecutors have said. One incident resulted in an employee's death (United States v. Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co., D.N.J., No. 3:03-cr-852, order issued 10/6/11).

The defendants also were found to have engaged in an eight-year conspiracy to pollute the air and Delaware River by violating the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

The company's April 2009 sentence included an $8 million fine, and the four managers were sentenced to prison terms (39 OSHR 351, 4/30/09).

Atlantic States is a subsidiary of McWane Inc. and makes ductile iron pipe for municipal and commercial water and sewer installations.

Accident Investigations

In one instance, following a worker fatality in a 2000 forklift accident, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector was shown an inspection report indicating that the forklift was in “perfect operating condition.” Investigations of maintenance records demonstrated that the brakes were defective and that company management attempted to conceal that fact. Brake problems on the forklift had been reported on the shift immediately preceding the fatality, according to the decision.

A previous forklift accident involving the same driver was discovered during the investigation, and that accident was not recorded on the plant's OSHA injury log, the decision said.

Another OSHA investigation involved an accident in which a worker lost an eye when part of a rotating blade broke off and struck him. The inspector observed a worker operating the machine behind a plexiglas shield, which appeared to be newly constructed. The worker told the inspector the shield “was always there,” but later testified that he was told to lie and did so to keep his job, the decision said.

A further series of violations was discovered after a worker lost three fingers in a cement mixer accident. Although a company official indicated that the cement mixer did not come with an interlock switch, which would prevent accidental startup, it was found that the mixer originally had one but that a manager had it bypassed because he thought it slowed down operations, the court said. He then had an employee remove the switch and make it appear that the mixer never had one.

Five Cases Addressed

The Sept. 17 opinion addresses five cases: four involving the managers and one involving the company. The docket numbers are 09-2305, 09-2306, 09-2345, 09-2346, and 09-2356.

The managers are Craig Davidson, finishing department head who was sentenced to six months in prison; John Prisque, plant manager, who was sentenced to 70 months; Scott Faubert, human resources manager, who was sentenced to 41 months; and Jeffrey Maury, maintenance supervisor, who was sentenced to 30 months.


The Sept. 17 opinion in United States v. Maury is available at http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/092305p.pdf.


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