ROANOKE -- The state Department of Labor and Industry has renewed its court battle to make an inspection of Mosher Steel, which has fought state inspection for four years.
John Purcell, an assistant attorney general for the state, said in a hearing last week that Mosher is not meeting Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards and workers are endangered.
"The concern here is for the worker," Purcell said. "The plant has not been inspected in eight years and yet injuries occur and workers are hurt."
The state has been fighting for four years in Roanoke Circuit Court to inspect the plant, according to Carol Amato, commissioner of labor and industry.
She said the department makes 2,700 safety inspections each year and Mosher is the only company in the state to deny a warrant to inspect a plant.
Judge Roy Willett gave lawyers for the state and the company two months to file briefs before he decides whether to permit a state inspection.
Robert Rader of Dallas, a Mosher lawyer, said the inspection could have been made four years ago if the state had agreed to Mosher's request for "judicial review of the fairness of the inspection plan."
Rader said the Roanoke plant "actually is extremely safe. We are not hiding an unsafe work place."
Purcell said the company's own injury reports filed with the state provide evidence that Mosher's machines do not have proper guards, employes do not have proper personal protective equipment and the plant has material handling problems.
He said it was likely "that if we go over there, we'll find a violation."
Fred Yontz, a regional supervisor for the department, said the number of injury reports filed by Mosher suggests there are safety violations at the plant.
Trinity Industries, parent company of Mosher, has spent $150,000 on the case, according to Rader.
Arguments on the inspection issue also have been heard in U.S. District Court and the Virginia Supreme Court.
Elliot Scruggs, director of enforcement for the department's health and safety programs, said Trinity could have automated the plant if it had spent as much on its Roanoke operation as it has paid its lawyers to oppose the inspection.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Jackson L. Kiser denied the company's motion for an injunction to stop an OSHA inspection of the plant.
The company has argued that it has Fourth Amendment protection against government delving into personal matters, but Purcell said this is not a criminal case.
The state seeks a civil inspection, like a fire or restaurant inspection, he said.