Construction Firm Fined $560K after Worker’s Death in Alaska

December 11, 2015

A construction company will have to pay $560,000 in connection with the death of an employee who officials say was fatally injured when other workers tried to rescue him from a collapsed trench at a work site in Anchorage, Alaska.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development said in a statement that Hartman Construction failed to follow safety standards in the June death of 23-year-old Samuel Morgan, The Alaska Dispatch News reported.

Morgan had been laying sewer pipe when the trench, roughly 7 feet deep and 15 feet wide, failed.

“Mr. Morgan was in the trench when an unguarded wall sloughed off and buried him to the waist,” state officials wrote. “David Hartman, a partial owner of the company, and other employees tried to free Mr. Morgan from the collapsed trench using two excavators and fatally injured him in the process. The state medical examiner determined that Mr. Morgan’s injuries resulted from being struck by construction equipment.”

Officials issued a series of guidelines after the incident regarding work in trenches to construction firms across the state. They initially refused to comment on the circumstances surrounding Morgan’s death.

However, in their findings, the state accused Hartman Construction of a “willful failure to adhere to safety standards.” Officials allege the company committed several violations, including failure to use a protective system in the excavation and not providing “adequate access and egress from the trench.”

Grey Mitchell, the department’s director of labor standards and safety, said his office has been in discussions with the state Department of Law’s Criminal Division about possible charges in the case. The state has a two-year statute of limitations to bring charges in the case, he said.

But Mitchell also noted that the Department of Labor’s findings are only allegations made by the state.

Hartman Construction couldn’t be reached for comment.

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