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Biz ‘Bites:’ An explosive sentence

An explosive sentence

Loren Kim Jacobson, age 66, was sentenced on Nov. 19 to a month in federal prison, five months of home confinement, three years of supervised release and a $15,000 fine for lying to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agency and for making an illegal repair to a cargo tanker. The unsafe repair was the cause of an Aug. 14, 2018, explosion in Pocatello that sent an employee to the hospital in critical condition. Jacobson was originally scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 25, but requested and was granted a delay until November.

Jacobson owned the KCCS Inc. tanker testing and repair company in Pocatello. The accident happened when the KCCS employee’s welder flame pierced the skin of the tanker, and ignited residual flammable material inside. During the subsequent OSHA investigation, Jacobson “made a materially false statement to the OSHA investigator,” according to a release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for Idaho, about the employment status of the employee, saying that the injured welder was merely “an observer” in order “to try to evade legal repercussions and penalties” for violating workplace safety regulations that led to the accident.

Jacobson plead guilty in a plea agreement on May 20 in U.S. District Court, admitting he lied about: using a lower explosive limit meter to test the tank for explosive fumes prior to the repair and explosion; that he did not possess the necessary certification to conduct cargo tanker repairs; that he would send employees into cargo tankers to weld patches from the inside so that the illegal repairs would not be visible from the outside, including the repair leading to the accident; and that he did not follow OSHA standards for protecting employees from confined space entry hazards.

According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, Jacobson also had a routine practice of falsifying results for pressure testing that he conducted on behalf of cargo tank owners. Pressure testing is required under law and is intended to make sure that cargo tanks will automatically vent gases if pressure inside the tank gets too high, thereby preventing explosions. Instead of actually testing tank valves, Jacobson merely wrote plausible numbers on the test result forms. When confronted about this practice, Jacobson lied to a Department of Transportation inspector about it, attempting to hide the practice by producing fake test result forms with passing values. He later admitted his practice of falsifying pressure test results.

“This tragic accident could have been prevented had the defendant adhered to OSHA workplace safety requirements,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr. “It is vital that companies follow all health and safety guidelines and ensure a safe workplace for its employees. By callously focusing on financial gain, the defendant created the conditions that led to the explosion,” Gonzalez added before commending the investigators at OSHA, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency for uncovering the evidence in this case.

Idaho Small Business of the Month

U.S. Senator Jim Risch, senior member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, announced on Dec. 2 the selection of Trails West in Preston as the Idaho Small Business of the Month for December 2021. Trails West will be recognized for its contribution to the Preston community in the Congressional Record of the U.S. Senate.

Trails West is a horse, living quarter, and stock trailer manufacturer renowned for its world-class craftsmanship and innovative designs. Prior to its founding, owner Steve Reeder worked in the RV industry. After several years of working on his family’s farm, he saw an opportunity to revitalize a struggling local manufacturer. Armed with expertise in RV manufacturing and business acumen, Steve hired the former business’ laid-off employees and established Trails West in 1987.

As one of the first companies to recognize women as the largest demographic of horse trailer owners, Trails West has since become known nationwide for its consumer-friendly innovations and use of steel frames to deliver a long-lasting and reliable product to their customers. In addition to manufacturing trailers, Trails West has become a staple in the Preston community. The business currently employs 160.

“Trails West embodies the true spirit of small business in Idaho,” said Risch. “Through hard work and determination, Steve successfully started his own business and restored hundreds of good-paying jobs to his community.”

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