Washington Contractor Faces Manslaughter in Worker’s Trench Death

January 10, 2018

Criminal manslaughter charges have been filed against the owner of a Seattle, Wash.-area construction.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed second-degree manslaughter charges against Phillip Numrich, the owner of Alki Construction, in connection with the death of Harold Felton.

Felton was killed when the dirt walls of the trench he was working in collapsed and buried him on a job site in West Seattle two years ago.

This is the first time a Washington employer has faced felony charges for a workplace fatality, according to the Department of Labor & Industries.

An L&I investigation of the death led to a citation and fine from the state in 2016 for multiple workplace safety violations, including “willful” violations − the most severe.

“There are times when a monetary penalty isn’t enough,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said in a statement. “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.”

There are numerous safety requirements that must be followed in excavation and trenching, including ensuring that sites four-feet deep or more have protective systems in place to prevent the dirt sides from caving in. Among other requirements, employers must also make sure there are ladders, ramps or other ways available to safely exit an excavated trench. And there must be daily inspections of excavations to monitor changing soil conditions.

Alki violated these and other workplace safety requirements, according to the L&I.

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