Washington Employer Goes to Jail for Trench Death

For the first time in the state’s history, a Washington employer will go to jail for the death of one of his employees — largely thanks to the determined work of Washington workplace safety advocate Jay Herzmark.

On Jan. 26, 2016, 36-year-old Harold Felton was crushed to death under more than 6,000 pounds of dirt when an 8 to 10-foot deep trench caved in on top of him at a West Seattle home. Washington state OSHA regulations require trenches over 4-feet deep to be shored (the federal OSHA requirement is 5 feet.) The Labor and Industries (L&I) Department, which houses Washington OSHA, cited Alki Construction in September 2016 and fined the company $51,500, including two willful violations stating that the company “knowingly ignored basic, common-sense safety rules”. Company owner Phillip Numrich appealed the fine and L&I agreed to reduce the penalty to $25,750 to avoid costly litigation.

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