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The James Knott Story

 James Knott is the President of Riverdale Mills Corporation, a wire-mesh manufacturing plant in Northbridge, Massachusetts. A responsible businessman and a major supporter of community charities, Knott has nonetheless been repeatedly targeted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Although he has been inspected about a dozen times since the 1970s for alleged workplace safety violations, he has never been found guilty of an infraction and never paid a fine.

One of the more outrageous instances of OSHA regulatory abuse occurred in 1996. During an inspection, one of the OSHA inspectors noticed a maintenance man climbing down a ladder into a hole less than six feet deep in a road owned by the company. The hole appeared after a recent flood. The maintenance man - a man Knott has worked with for more than 40 years - had to enter the hole to determine how much concrete was needed to fill it.

The OSHA inspectors accused Knott of violating OSHA regulations that prohibit workers from entering a trench at least six feet deep without protective walls. But this regulation didn't apply in this case because the hole was not a trench dug by men. It was a hole created by a flood and there was no danger of the hole caving in. The maintenance man tried to explain these circumstances, but the inspector wouldn't listen.

Knott was slapped with a $4,500 fine. He refused to pay. When he contacted the OSHA office, an OSHA staffer suggested that instead of fighting the fine in court, Knott should just pay half the fine and OSHA would forget the matter. But Knott told him, "The fine isn't the problem. The problem is that OSHA has created a public document that says I endangered a man's life" and he insisted on going to court to clear his name. The maintenance man who OSHA claimed it was protecting, wanted to testify on Knott's behalf.

But the judge dismissed the case before it ever went to court. Apparently, OSHA asked the case to be dismissed once it became clear that Knott would not back down and the maintenance man was prepared to take the stand.

Knott claims the same OSHA inspectors subsequently returned to his mill on numerous occasions and he believes these visits were in retaliation for fighting the fine. Knott fought each additional citation and got each one dismissed.
Source: James Knott