The owner of a Washington construction company was sentenced to 45 days in jail for a fatal 2016 trench collapse.
The sentencing of Phillip Numrich, owner of Alki Construction, was a landmark decision since it’s extremely rare for an employer to face jail time for an on-the-job fatality, according to the state’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
Numrich agreed to plead guilty to attempted reckless endangerment and was sentenced March 4.
He will also serve 18 months of probation that limits his contact with the family of the deceased worker and places limits on the work his company can perform.
Failure to meet the terms of the probation will result in an additional 45 days of jail time.
Alki Construction also pleaded guilty to violations of the Washington Industrial Safety & Health Act and will pay a $25,000 fine.
The company was fined $25,750 for two willful and five serious violations after the conclusion of the 2016 L&I investigation.
Initially charged with manslaughter
The state’s Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that an employer can be charged with a felony in connection with a workplace fatality, clearing the way for criminal prosecution, according to Seattle’s KING News.
Prosecutors initially moved forward with a felony charge of second-degree manslaughter.
Buried under 6K pounds of dirt
Numrich and his company were charged for the 2016 death of Harold Felton, a 36-year-old worker who died when he was buried under more than 6,000 pounds of dirt from a collapsing trench.
L&I investigators found Numrich and his company “knowingly ignored basic, common-sense safety rules” leading to Felton’s death.
The owner allowed work to go on in a trench that was about 10 feet deep even though he only had enough safety equipment to protect two of the four sides from cave-in.
Numrich admitted to investigators that he was aware his employees were digging in rain-soaked, Type-C, unstable soil when he left the worksite for lunch.