September 8, 2016 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 1Comment

[Updated Jan. 10, 2018, below]

Harold Felton’s work-related death could have been prevented. That’s how I see the findings from Washington State-OSHA in the agency’s recent citations against Alki Construction.

The 36 year-old was working in January 2016 on a sewer repair project in a West Seattle neighborhood. The initial press reports indicated that Mr. Felton was working inside a 10-foot deep trench which was situated between two homes. reported: “…the walls of the trench gave way and buried the man under several feet of soil.”

wrote about the incident shortly after it occurred. The State of Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries completed its post-fatality inspection and recently issued citations to Alki Construction. Six of the violations, two of which are classified as willful, involve failure to address the hazards related to excavation and trenching projects. The safety regulations are quite clear:

“You must protect each employee in an excavation from cave-ins by an adequate protective system” (296-155-657(1)(A))

“Where the competent person finds evidence of a situation that could result in a possible cavein, indications of failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions, you must remove exposed employees from the hazardous area until the necessary precautions have been taken to ensure their safety.” (296-155-655(11)(B))

The penalty proposed to Alki Construction by Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries is $51,500.

When some local press initially reported Harold Felton’s death, they called it an accident. An “accident” suggests the circumstances were unforeseen or could not have been avoided. OSHA’s findings tell a different story. Call it cutting corners, call it poor management, call it breaking the law. Whatever you want to call it, Felton’s work-related death could have been prevented, 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.”

One thought on “Fatal work injury that killed Harold Felton, 36, was preventable, Washington-OSHA cites Alki Construction

  1. Here’s what I don’t understand. Do construction companies that dig trenches spring fully-formed every night, with absolutely no knowledge of the past?
    It’s not like it is news that unsupported trenches collapse. So why would any company *not* put in supporting structures?
    Even if they care nothing for their employees, a trench collapse still wastes time and effort. Criminal stupidity.

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