Seattle Contractor Fined in Fatal Trench Collapse

Harold Felton was killed last January when the dirt walls of the trench he was working in collapsed and buried him, and rescuers were unable to dig him out in time.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has cited Alki Construction LLC, a Seattle contractor, for one willful violation, five serious violations, and one general violation and fined the company $51,500 after a construction worker died last January in a trench collapse. The agency reported that Harold Felton was killed when the dirt walls of the trench he was working in collapsed and buried him, and rescuers were unable to dig him out in time.

The company had dug trenches beside a Seattle home to replace a sewer line. The trench where Felton died was 7 feet deep and just under 2 feet wide, with no system in place to prevent the sides from caving in, according to the agency.

Alki Construction was cited for a willful violation with a penalty of $35,000 for not ensuring that trenches and excavations 4 feet deep or more had a protective system in place to prevent the dirt sides from caving in, and it was cited for five serious violations: not having a formal accident prevention program tailored to the needs of the operation and the type of hazards involved in trenching and excavation work; no ladder, ramp, or other safe means of exiting the excavated trench; sidewalks and structures that were undermined were not supported to protect employees from possible collapse; excavated dirt and other materials were placed less than 2 feet from the edge of the unprotected trench, where they could fall into the trench where employees were working; and there were no daily inspections of the excavations to monitor changing soil conditions.

L&I announced the enforcement action Sept. 1, stating that because of these violations, Alki Construction LLC has been identified as a severe violator and is subject to follow-up inspections to determine whether the conditions still exist. The company has 15 working days to appeal. Penalty money paid in connection with an L&I citation is placed in the workers' compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.

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