Seattle construction owner sentenced for 2016 workplace death

Seattle construction owner sentenced for 2016 workplace death

The owner of Alki Construction was sentenced to jail in what the state labor agency calls a historic case to hold business owners responsible for a workplace death.

SEATTLE — A West Seattle construction company’s owner was sentenced to jail Friday for the death of one of his workers who died when a trench collapsed at a site in 2016.

Phillip Numrich, the owner of Alki Construction, was sentenced to 45 days in jail in what the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) calls a historic case to hold an employer criminally responsible for a workers’ death.

An L&I investigation found Numrich and Alki Construction “knowingly ignored basic, common-sense safety rules” in the 2016 workplace death. 

L&I said Numrich allowed work to go on in an eight to ten-foot deep trench, even though he had only brought enough safety equipment to protect two of the four sides of the trench from a cave-in.

When the trench caved, worker Harold Felton, a 36-year-old, was buried under more than six thousand pounds of dirt and died.

Numrich told investigators he knew his workers were digging in rain-soaked, unstable soil, according to L&I. Numrich had left the worksite for lunch at the time the trench collapsed.

L&I cited and fined the company for multiple workplace safety violations in 2016.

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The Washington State Supreme Court ruled an employer can be charged with a felony in connection with a workplace fatality in 2021, clearing the way for criminal prosecution. The King County Prosecutor moved forward with a felony charge of second-degree manslaughter.

Numrich agreed to plead guilty to attempted reckless endangerment and was sentenced Friday.

“It is extremely rare for an employer to face jail time as a result of an on-the-job fatality,” Joel Sacks, L&I Director, said, “The ultimate responsibility to keep workers out of needlessly dangerous situations lies with the employer.”

Numrich will also serve a 18-month probation that limits his contact with the Felton family and the type of work his company can perform.

Alki Construction pleaded guilty to violations of the Washington Industrial Safety & Health Act and will pay a $25,000 fine. This is in addition to the fine issued in 2016.

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