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The owner of a Corvallis asphalt plant won't be going to prison, but he and his company must pay $20,000 in fines and restitution after an employee was killed in an accident at the plant two years ago.

Martin Romano and MR Asphalt Inc. reached parallel plea agreements that were accepted Monday by Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch in U.S. District Court in Missoula. 

Romano was sentenced to three years unsupervised probation. He and MR Asphalt were each ordered to share equally $7,500 in fines and $12,500 in restitution to the widow of William Irby Jr.

Irby, of Corvallis, died Sept. 13, 2012, when he struck his head on a concrete structure after falling 13 feet from an asphalt tank. He was checking asphalt levels from the top of the tank when he slipped.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found 16 health and safety violations, including the lack of guard or handrails on the asphalt tank and the absence of personal fall protection on Irby.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean told the court that Romano met with employees after Irby’s death and asked them to back-date records of safety meetings that didn’t occur, according to a statement from the Montana U.S. Attorney’s office.

“In addition, a safety harness and lanyard were placed in the control shack after the incident, and Romano told others that the equipment was always present at the worksite,” prosecutors said. “The investigation revealed that no one had ever been trained or certified in fall protection or fall arrest systems, or that safety equipment was ever available prior to the fatal fall.”

Romano could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

He pleaded not guilty in April and faced up to six months in prison and a $10,000 fine for the violations, while the company faced up to $500,000 in fines. The agreements included guilty pleas from both entities for violating an OSHA safety standard causing the death of an employee, a misdemeanor. 

Lynch ordered Romano to hire and retain a safety consultant to conduct a comprehensive safety and health survey of the asphalt plant and submit to recommendations and biannual, unannounced inspections by the consultant.

The consultant also will provide an annual refresher training for employees and managers at the plant. OSHA also may be permitted to inspect MR Asphalt without obtaining an administrative warrant.

Romano was also ordered to participate "meaningfully" every April 28 in the OSHA-sponsored Workers Memorial Day, which honors workers killed on the job and fosters a safe workplace.

“Although nothing will restore the victim to family and loved ones, prosecution of the case by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the defendant’s plea of guilty, will send a clear message that no employee’s life should be sacrificed for a day’s wages,” Greg Baxter, OSHA’s regional administrator in Denver, said in a statement.

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Mineral County, veterans issues

Outlying communities, transportation, history and general assignment reporter at the Missoulian