The Esplins of Delta have put almost 40 years into running and building a family business at Delta Elevator.
Now, an unannounced visit from a federal inspector has resulted in thousands of dollars in expense, fines and threatened fines for a longtime Delta business.
Delta Elevator has been in operation since the 1920s, explained Bob Esplin who owns the business with his son, Bobby. But the future of the enterprise could be in doubt now. That is because the Esplins are refusing to knuckle under to what they see as unfair, unreasonable and intimidating tactics being used against them by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
When the OSHA inspector arrived unannounced at Delta Elevator in June, Bob Esplin at first objected. The business is run by the two owners and one hired hand. It doesn't have the three employees required for OSHA oversight. "He said the rules have been changed," Esplin said. Bobby adds, "We asked to see the new rules and they have never shown us a copy."
It was then, Esplin explained to the DCI, the inspector threatened that if he was barred from entry that day he would return with a search warrant and other OSHA inspectors for a tour of the elevator "that will be much harder on you."
Esplin has since had second thoughts about his decision to let the inspector tour the elevator with a video camera in hand that day. "He said they were going to inspect every feed mill in Colorado," Esplin said.
The father and son didn't hear anything more for about a month until one day the inspector arrived with a book of notes on his tour. Bobby did a walk-though with the inspector who pointed out where corrective action to improve safety could be taken. Bob states that the elevator hasn't had more than a scraped knuckle injury in 25 years. During a tour of the elevator with the DCI, Esplin pointed out numerous places where safety features have been in place for many years before the OSHA inspection.
Esplin also admits that some of the OSHA suggestions were useful. He adds that the inspector's suggestions were all that were necessary for the business to comply with recommendations.
In fact, after the inspector's second visit, Bobby went right to work on the recommendations, even though the Esplins thought some were unnecessary. They spent about $5,000 on the corrective measures, they said.
That's not all. Bob and Bobby and their wives toiled for hours completing paperwork and creating documentation on company safety procedures for their one employee.
It was only then that OSHA let the big hammer fall on Delta Elevator. In late August Delta Elevator received an "informal settlement agreement" from the Denver OSHA office.
The agreement proposed the Esplins pay an additional $7,000 in penalties for the safety improvements they had already made. The amount of the penalties could be doubled.
In spite of two phone calls from OSHA pressuring them to sign, the Esplins aren't signing.
The OSHA document also proposes that the Esplins will agree to other points including the following:
• Accept provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970;
• Waive rights to contest the penalties assessed in the agreement document;
• Agree to submit to future OSHA "audits."
Bob Esplin replied to OSHA with an agreement document of his own requiring the following form OSHA's Denver officials:
• Provide certified proof of employment capacity with the agency;
• Provide certified copies of oath of office and bond guaranteeing faithful performance of duties;
• Provide certified copy of delegation of authority authorizing enforcement of federal law and to represent OSHA in the inspection;
• Cite specific federal statutes and regulations that make Delta Elevator subject to OHSA jurisdiction;
• Cite the federal statutes giving force and effect to the regulations that Delta Elevator has been charged with violating.
Bob Esplin's letter is dated Sept. 13 and it asks the OSHA officials to respond within 30 days. The Denver OSHA office did not respond by deadline to a DCI e-mail request for comment.
Bob Esplin is standing up for his rights, and also for his family. "We have been in business in Delta 39 years as of August," Esplin told the DCI. He and his wife have raised 12 children in the community.
The OSHA payment plan of $292 per month for 24 months is money that, if the Esplins actually earn, is going to help pay their children's' and grandchildren's' college expenses, Bob said.blog comments powered by Disqus