Safety and OSHA News

OSHA fines companies $280K — worker died in trench collapse

Two construction companies face a total of $280,000 in fines following OSHA’s investigation into what caused a trench to collapse then bury and kill a worker in Manhattan in April. 

OSHA has issued $140,000 in fines to each of two companies: general contractor Harco Construction LLC of New York City, and Moncayo’s employer, subcontractor Sky Materials Corp. of Maspeth, NY.

Both employers received two willful violations:

  • The sidewalk above a trench was undermined and not properly supported while employees were working in the trench below. Employees were installing the formwork for the underpinning operation in the trench below the undermined section of the sidewalk.
  • Employees were installing formwork for the underpinning of a column in a 14-foot deep trench which didn’t have a protection system. Employees were working in the trench when a section of the wall collapsed and trapped an employee.

The trapped employees was Carlos Moncayo, 22. He was buried beneath tons of soil and debris.

Each company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either comply, begin informal talks with OSHA, or contest the violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

In August, the Manhattan District Attorney announced manslaughter charges against the two companies and two individuals: Wilmer Cueva, Sky’s foreman; and Alfonso Prestia, Harco’s senior superintendent.

Both supervisors and both companies all face the same charges: one count of second degree manslaughter; one count of criminally negligent homicide; and four counts of second degree reckless endangerment.

The DA said at the time of the indictments it was still determining whether to charge higher-ups at the constructions companies.

Less than two hours before the trench collapse, an inspector noted there was an unprotected trench at the construction site.

According to authorities, the trench collapsed just moments after Cueva repeated a warning in Spanish for workers to get out of the trench.

Moncayo was an undocumented worker. He’d paid $500 out of his own pocket to take an OSHA-required safety course to learn how to build scaffolding.

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