Baltimore Sun Op-Ed: Baltimore Employer of Smothered Worker Should Be Held Criminally Accountable

by Rena Steinzor | June 12, 2018

This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun.

On June 5, a 19-year-old construction worker named Kyle Hancock was smothered to death when a deep trench where he was working collapsed. R.F. Warder Inc., the construction company that hired Hancock to help fix a leaking sewage pipe, and the bosses it employed are responsible for his death, plain and simple. Their failure to shore the trench to prevent a collapse was grossly negligent, readily foreseeable, eminently preventable and, therefore, criminal.

The scene of the incident was gruesome. To recover Hancock's body, emergency responders from the Baltimore Fire Department first shored the trench to protect themselves and then worked painstakingly until 1:30 a.m., digging with hand shovels 20 feet down. Before they began the rescue effort, they had to order two other workers out of the hole. We can assume from this fact that Hancock was not an isolated employee who acted recklessly. Rather, had the company provided even rudimentary safety training to its employees, supervisors would have known better than to allow more men to risk their lives after Hancock was buried alive.

In fact, trench collapses have been well-known hazards since Roman times. Regulations written by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have made it illegal to dig a trench deeper than five feet without precautions like shoring.

Maryland regulators say they are investigating the fatal incident. But they have a dismal track record. Case in point: ...

County Prosecutor in Washington State Indicts Construction Company Owner for Trench Collapse Death

by Katie Tracy | February 01, 2018
On the morning of January 26, 2016, Seattle police were called to a construction site where a worker, Harold Felton, was trapped in a collapsed trench. By the time officers arrived, the rescue operation had turned into a recovery; Felton, 36, had died at the scene.  Felton was working as part of a two-man team employed by Alki Construction to replace a sewer line. According to the police report, 10 minutes before the trench collapsed, the man working alongside Felton ...

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