Seattle construction company owner facing criminal charges in worker death
- The owner of a Seattle construction company has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in relation to a 2016 fatal trench collapse, according to KHQ News.
- King County, WA, prosecutors allege that Phillip Numrich and his company Alki Construction knew the requirements for safe trenching operations but ignored them. The state's Department of Labor investigated the incident and issued the company an assortment of safety violations, including those categorized as willful.
- Authorities said that Alki violated safety rules requiring safe means of egress from a trench and daily inspections. This is the first time a Washington state employer has been charged with a felony for a workplace death.
Increasingly, law enforcement is getting involved in accidental fatality cases that previously would have been given, at most, a citation and fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), with workers' compensation handling death benefits and associated communication with the family.
New York City has taken a leadership position in the evolution toward holding construction companies and supervisors accountable. In May, Brooklyn, NY, prosecutors charged construction company owner Michael Weiss with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in relation to a 2015 wall collapse that killed one of his employees.
Authorities said Weiss's employees asked for materials necessary to secure a wall next to the site where they were working, but Weiss ignored their requests. The wall eventually collapsed, killing 18-year-old Fernando Vanegaz and injuring two other employees. Weiss faces up to 15 years in prison if he is found guilty.
The watershed incident that renewed the push for stricter enforcement and punishment in New York, however, was the death of 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo in April 2015. Moncayo died on a Manhattan job site after a trench in which he was working collapsed.
Prosecutors charged the general contractor, Harco Construction, with criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter but, unlike the Alki case, not the company's owners. The company was found guilty on those charges and paid a fine of $10,000 after refusing the judge's original order to pay for public safety advertisements.
Moncayo's direct employer was subcontractor Sky Materials Corporation, which pleaded guilty to manslaughter in April and must also pay a $10,000 fine. Sky has also been mandated to pay a $100,000 fine levied by OSHA. In December of 2016, one of Sky's foremen, Wilmer Cueva, was sentenced to one to three years in prison for ignoring safety warnings prior to the accident. Harco employee Alfonso Prestia was sentenced to community service and probation in the matter.
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