February 3, 2016 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 5Comment

[Update Jan. 8, 2018, below]

Harold Felton, 36, suffered fatal traumatic injuries on Tuesday, January 26 while working at a sewer repair project in a West Seattle neighborhood. Mr. Felton’s employer was Alki Construction.

Q13Fox reports:

  • Mr. Felton was working inside a 10-foot deep trench which was situated between two homes.

King5.com reports:

  • “…the walls of the trench gave way and buried the man under several feet of soil.”
  • “For about 20 minutes, it was a rescue operation, but it became clear the man wouldn’t make it.”

Using OSHA’s on-line database, it does not appear that the Washington State OSHA program has conducted any inspections involving Alki Construction, at least since 2000.

The AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report notes:

  • The Washington State OSHA program has 110 inspectors to cover more than 175,000 workplaces. With that number of inspectors, it would take 49 years for them to inspect each workplace in the State just once.
  • The average penalty for a serious violation in Washington State is $896.
  • The median penalty amount for a work-related fatality occurring in Washington State is $2,250.

Washington State OSHA has until the end of July 2016 to issue any citations and penalties related to the incident that stole Harold Felton’s life. It’s likely they’ll determine that his death was preventable. It was no “accident.”

Update: The King County, Washington prosecutor filed manslaughter charges on January 5, 2018 against Phillip Numrich, the owner of Alki Construction, for the fatal injuries that killed Harold Felton. Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries director, Joel Sacks said,

“A workplace death affects families forever. When workplace safety and health laws are followed on the job, nearly every incident like this can be prevented. When they’re ignored, the results are often disastrous and irreversible.”

5 thoughts on “Not an “accident”: Harold Felton, 36, suffers fatal work-related injury in Seattle, WA

  1. The people who climb in trenches to facilitate construction work are typically not educated in things like soil density, angle of repose, thixotropy, potential energy, and basic trench safety procedures. . Additionally, and probably as a function of this ignorance, they are often fearless. We could probably save a good number of lives each year by requiring that trench work NOT be undertaken without the proper safety equipment and training. However, adolescent brained libertarianism, typically encouraged by self interested silver spoon idiots, bridles at this sort of restriction, so we will continue to lose many workers each year to this type of event.

    “Thixotropy is a time-dependent shear thinning property. Certain gels or fluids ( or soils ) that are thick (viscous) under static conditions will flow (become thin, less viscous) over time when shaken, agitated, or otherwise stressed (time dependent viscosity).”

  2. It is imperative that the departments at work who are investigating the situation and Gathering all evidence be given the chance to do so and any speculations regardless how intelligent You Think You Are is up to the experts to determine exactly how and why this happened. The investigations are ongoing can have not been disclosed at this time however a comment from a person in authority has told my daughter without going into details that violations have been made. How numerous and to what Extant has also not been disclosed. Trust me we are all waiting to find out the final report I would ask that you keep my daughter and granddaughter in your prayers as it is still difficult to grasp this tragedy thank you.

  3. I watching this case for a class I teach. Any update on this case? I did not find anything new since the charges.
    Thank you.

  4. Nancy,
    In January 2018, the district attorney for King County charged Phillip Numrich (the employer) with manslaughter (a felony) for violating worker safety standards (a misdemeanor). His attorneys are arguing that someone can’t be charged with a felony for a misdemeanor violation. (I’m not an attorney, so I may not have their argument exactly correct.) Another one of their arguments is that no one has ever been charged in a case like this so it is inappropriate to do it in Mr. Numrich’s case. That’s an equal protection argument. There is a hearing on the case on July 19, 2018 (I presume on some of these matters.)

    If you want to follow along, a colleague at the Center for Progressive Reform created the “Crimes against Workers.” It is a compendium of criminal prosecutions for worker safety violations. She is assembling cases and doing her best to keep the more recent cases up-to-date. The link to the database is here:

    If you use the search term “Harold Felton” you should easily get to this case.

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