- A California crane operator has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the May 2014 construction site death of his son and another worker, according to the Sacramento Bee.
- The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) said Mark Powell used an aging crane in need of repairs — and not approved for lifting — to hoist Marcus Powell and Glenn Hodgson 80 feet in the air to repair another crane. The basket holding Powell and Hodgson fell, killing both men.
- Cal-OSHA cited Powell’s employer, Disney Construction, with serious violations in relation to the accident in November 2014 and fined the company $106,110. Yolo County prosecutors also charged Mark Powell with two felony counts of violating occupational safety or health standards causing death.
In addition to what Cal-OSHA characterized as a "long list of mechanical deficiencies," the agency said in its report of the incident that the basket used to lift Powell and Hudson did not have a working safety latch. According to Cal-OSHA inspectors, Disney supervisors failed to inspect the crane and personnel lifting equipment, which they determined was “the root cause of the accident.”
Yolo County joins other jurisdictions in pursuing criminal action for incidents that might have once been chalked up to the dangerous nature of the construction business. The most high-profile case last year was that of New York City general contractor Harco Construction. In April 2015, 22-year-old worker Carlos Moncayo, an employee of subcontractor Sky Materials Corporation, was killed in an excavation collapse on a Harco job.
Prosecutors charged Harco with criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, and the company was ultimately convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $10,000. In addition, Sky foreman Wilmer Cueva was sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison for ignoring safety warnings prior to the cave-in, and Harco supervisor Alfonso Prestia was sentenced to community service and probation. Sky Materials has not yet been tried.
After the Moncayo death, concerned with construction safety and other industry issues amidst a New York City building boom, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance established the Construction Fraud Task Force to investigate safety violations and other incidences of possible malfeasance.
According to Brian Gardner, chairman of Cole Schotz’s Construction Services Department, construction companies should expect the crackdowns to continue in 2017. Gardner told Construction Dive that construction companies will "face greater scrutiny of accidents, including potential criminal prosecution for workplace injuries that in the past may have been treated solely as traditional accidents."