Construction Company Owner Faces Felony Charges for Workplace Fatality

The owner of a Seattle construction company has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in relation to a 2016 fatal trench collapse.

The owner of a Seattle construction company has been charged with second-degree manslaughter after a 2016 fatal trench collapse. This is the first time a Washington employer has faced felony charges for a workplace fatality.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office filed second-degree manslaughter charges against Phillip Numrich, the owner of Alki Construction, in connection with the 2016 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.

After a state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation of the death, the state cited and fined the company in 2016 for multiple workplace safety violations, including willful violations.

"There are times when a monetary penalty isn't enough," L&I Director Joel Sacks said. "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."

Because excavation and trenching are very hazardous, there are numerous safety requirements that must be followed, including that sites 4 feet deep or more have protective systems in place to prevent cave-ins. Employers must also make sure there are ladders, ramps, or other ways available to safety 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 L&I.

About the Author

Jessica Davis is an Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media.

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