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Contractor Fined $10K for Manslaughter

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

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A New York general contractor convicted of manslaughter last June has been ordered to pay a $10,000 fine after refusing to obey the original sentence imposed, authorities relate.

A judge first ordered Harco Construction LLC aka H&H Builders Inc. to fund public announcements on worker safety.

NYPD / courtesy of Manhattan District Attorney's Office

Harco Construction has been fined $10,000 following the 2015 death of a subcontractor's employee on a Manhattan jobsite.

However, the company refused to comply, triggering the maximum corporate sentence for a felony—a fine of $10,000, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.

Cave-In Death

The case stems from the death of 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo.

Moncayo, an Ecuadorean immigrant and Spanish speaker, was killed April 6, 2015, when an unsecured trench he was working in collapsed and fatally crushed him. Harco was the general contractor, managing construction work at the site of a future retail store in the city’s Meatpacking District. Moncayo worked for Sky Materials Corp., an excavation subcontractor.

The trenches at the site were as deep as 14 feet and lacked any fortification or shoring, prosecutors alleged.

According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, inspectors on the jobsite that morning warned supervisors multiple times that the trench was dangerous, but the supervisors’ attempts to get workers out of it were allegedly delayed and insufficient.

‘Hole in the System’

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge found Harco responsible for Moncayo’s death by failing to address dangerous conditions at the retail project under construction. The nonunion contractor was ordered to produce print and TV public service announcements in English and Spanish to promote jobsite safety, reports say, citing the judge’s ruling.

monopoly money
© / martince2

“For companies like Harco Construction, $10,000 is Monopoly money,” according to the District Attorney.

Prosecutors said Harco’s refusal to obey the original sentence “exposes another hole in the system,” according to reports.

“For companies like Harco Construction, $10,000 is Monopoly money,” said Vance. He noted that the nominal fine “does not meaningfully deter companies from this type of misconduct,” calling for state legislators to raise the maximum penalty for corporate conduct leading to death or serious physical injury.

Sky Materials has not faced trial yet. The company’s foreman, Wilmer Cueva, was sentenced to one to three years in prison after a conviction for criminally negligent homicide in November.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Construction; Criminal acts; Enforcement; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Regulations; Subcontractors

Comment from john lienert, (1/3/2017, 7:58 AM)

Well....there you have it in black and white.....when bidding large commercial projects you need NOT figure in larger safety measures or equipment rentals such as trench shoring.....It's a whole lot cheaper to figure in $10-20 K for a couple of dead equadorians ( oh ,yeah, ...and throw a few foremen under the bus while you're at it ) @ twice that price

Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/4/2017, 10:51 AM)

Monopoly money, but the most the judge could apply. In 1975, that was a big fine...but the penalties have not kept pace with inflation. Maybe in another 10 years time, they'll get the penalties updated (I'm thinking it should be max $1,000,000 or $5,000,000 for a company with annual adjustments for inflation). Maybe then worker safety will be a better value.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (1/5/2017, 8:24 AM)

Punitive monetary fines are in no way a preventive measure, for anything. The fact people think fines work is disturbing as you have to wonder what else people try to fix by throwing money at it.
Antibiotics are a great analogue to money. The Dr. can fill you up with antibiotics but the paranasal cancer causing your stuffy nose is still going to kill you. Alcohol and tobacco are two more great examples. When you tell the doctor you drink a quart of bourbon and smoke three packs of cigarettes every day you just lost any hope of getting the tumor out of your brain. Same with third world starvation. Governments and people spend billions on humanitarian aid and the hungry remain hungry.
Long ago I spent many years in equity investment in fringe engineering and the first thing you learn is the companies most likely to thrive are those who come asking for something other than money. The folks asking for money are the first to fail.
The heart of the issue is that since most people don't have scads of money, and money is all everyone talks about, money must have mystical qualities. They're incredibly wrong.
Don't get me wrong. I understand why people think what they do about money. Our culture beats people over the head with the value of a dollar. Money has become the equivalent of a 14th Century Bible. If you've got it you are smarter and more powerful than those who don't. We're still fighting the war that thinking started and we're still doing it with money. That's why after 700 years nothing has changed.
If you really want to make a positive difference in something start by eliminating money as a part of the solution. Remove it entirely from the equation then start working on a real fix. It might require some practice to change the way you assess problems but stay focused on not money and in fairly short order you'll be surprised by how much you've accomplished. You will be able to have a "free" dinner at a fancy restaurant (or something) with what you didn't spend on spending. It scales too. Go buy yourself a new car next year and take an extra week of vacation. Non monetary solutions actually work so problems get solved. It frees up a lot of time.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (1/5/2017, 8:50 AM)

Another thing. Really big fines create really bad situations. For $100k the guy on either side of our unfortunate migrant will happily kick a little more dirt down in the hole and now there's no problem. No Ecuadorians here. A million dollars in cash weighs about 25lbs and will fit in a large Flat Rate Priority Shipping box (free from the Post Office). You can put it in your desk drawer or the center console of a 2017 GMC SierraHD 3500 and use it like an eraser. But for erasing people. No Ecuadorian and nobody with an overactive ethics gland either.
People do jobs in dangerous conditions because they have to, or believe they do. You put real money on the table that offers them a way out of those conditions and new bicycles for their kids and good food and you'll never have to worry about employee safety, or the press, ever again.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/6/2017, 10:48 AM)

Jesse, I'd rather not deal with fines...but seeing as the contractors are not dealing with the preventative measures (such as training, safe job practices and safety equipment), you need to do something after the fact. Jail time would be great deterrent, but we're seeing what, one charge in 10,000+ cases? Even if you get a charge, killing someone after being warned about a dangerous situation gets you 1-3 years as a supervisor and a court order you can ignore as a company? The current fines, as your first comment rightly suggested, are not a deterrent and are laughable....they are so cheap that they can be considered a cost of doing business. So, if these folks won't look after their workers, how do we deal with them? Ensure every inspector can, at the drop of a hat, shut down a job site and use police resources to do it? Unfortunately, many of these same recalcitrant employers have dozens of shingles....they are disposable companies using (in their view) disposable workers to make a buck (because you can bet the job quality is bare minimum to pass inspection too) so even if you take away their license, out comes the next company the next day with a clean safety record. I don't see an easy way out of that and yes, greed and money are root causes. So for now, the best we can hope to get through the bureaucracy is higher fines and longer jail times for violators. It's not perfect, but it's the best the system will do at this point.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (1/9/2017, 9:51 AM)

I know this sounds nuts, but why not put the onus of jobsite safety on the authorities that are responsible for making the rules? All safety discussions center on the employer and the employees all the while there's a third party standing aside and watching it happen while remaining entirely free of any consequence. At the end of the day each time OSHA and the like issue a fine they are awarding themselves a prize for failure. Unlike employers and employees the OSHA's have no vested interest in any part of the industries they claim responsibility for. Why not give them a go at fixing something? Employers and employees have a symbiotic relationship which is entirely self sustained. That relationship does not require a third party authority in order to exist. The current system isn't unlike chicken fighting where natural tensions are super compressed by tossing them in a pit where the only way out is somebody dying. Send the OSHA guy to jail for a weekend and you'll be amazed at how fast budgets are no longer a problem. If they want to claim credit for making a safe workplace they need to take credit for the unsafe workplace too.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/9/2017, 12:15 PM)

I understand where you're coming from Jesse, but there are a few main issues with it. 1) There isn't the budget for that many inspectors on the public purse...OSHA has been getting clawed back and you're talking about orders of magnitude increase in their budget (not going to happen anytime soon). 2) You need to find the inspectors somewhere...there isn't a pool of unemployed inspectors out there. They need to come in (often from trades), learn the code for all industries and learn the inspection trade and paperwork before they can be sent out. Right now, there are so few inspectors that 1 jobsite in 1,000+ gets a visit during the work? 3) If you want the inspectors to be able to do something, they need the authority to do it. As it sits, unless there is an accident they can't shut folks down...they can write all the citations they want, but they can't show up and shut down a horrible worksite....and good luck getting them that power anytime soon. 4) There is a big issue in directing the work...and that's a major concern in terms of liability and costs. You wouldn't get the owners and contractors to agree to a 3rd party coming on site and dictating changes to the way work is being done and if something still goes wrong, who gets the blame....the inspector isn't party to the contract between the owner and the contractor. It would be nice to have OSHA more actively involved, but I don't see what you're suggesting being possible with the current situation.

Comment from Robert Tinker, (1/10/2017, 8:09 AM)

Yes, Jesse, you are nuts, or rather, your comment was nuts. A safety inspector cannot be held responsible for the actions of others. However, owners and investors can and should be held responsible. Contractors are literally getting away with murder.

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