For the first time a Washington employer faces felony charges of manslaughter for a workplace fatality, based on the willful violation of excavation safety regulations.
The King County prosecutor filed second-degree manslaughter charges in January 2018 against Phillip Numrich, the owner of Alki Construction, for his role in the death of Harold Felton. Felton died when the dirt walls of the trench collapsed and buried him on a West Seattle job site.
OSHA points out that trench collapses are the leading cause of death and injuries associated with excavation work, resulting in dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year. Visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics web page on trenching and excavation at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/trenchingexcavation/ index.html
After the Department of Labor & Industries investigated the death in 2016, L&I fined the company for multiple workplace safety infractions, including "willful" violations − the most severe.
"There are times when a monetary penalty isn't enough," said L&I Director Joel Sacks. "This company knew what the safety risks and requirements were, and ignored them. The felony charges show that employers can be held criminally accountable when the tragedy of a preventable workplace death or injury occurs."
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