Manhattan NY District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has called on New York State to raise the maximum penalty for corporate conduct leading to death or injury of a worker. Vance used the anniversary of the death of Carlos Moncayo who was killed when an unsecured 13-foot-deep trench collapsed in the city’s meatpacking district in April 2015. According to Vance’s statement:
“Despite the landmark criminal convictions of the people and corporations responsible for Mr. Moncayo’s death, New York State law still does not meaningfully deter companies from putting profits and deadlines ahead of their workers’ safety. For their role in causing Mr. Moncayo’s death, contractor Harco Construction and subcontractor Sky Materials were each sentenced to pay a $10,000 fine—the maximum penalty for any company convicted of a felony in New York State….“A $10,000 fine is but a rounding error on a multi-million dollar building contract. To honor Mr. Moncayo and protect workers like him, New York State should raise the maximum penalty for corporate conduct leading to death or injury.”
Harco Construction was found guilty of manslaughter last year. The company was also found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and three of four counts of reckless endangerment. Montoyo was a 22 year old immigrant from Ecuador.
A $10,000 fine is but a rounding error on a multi-million dollar building contract. — Cyrus Vance Jr.
An interesting side-note. The Judge originally decided not to make Harco pay the entire $30,000 fine if it produced print and TV PSAs in English and Spanish designed to promote worksite safety. Labor officials called the sentencing a “travesty,” but Harco, maintaining its innocence, even refused to to produce the commercials. Last year, Harco’s license was revoked by the city’s Buildings Department and a judge later ordered Harco Construction to pay the maximum fine of $10,000.
OSHA fined the company $140,000 for two willful violations of its trenching and excavation standards. OSHA requires all trenches deep than 5 feet to be shored, sloped or otherwise protected from collapse. Between 2011 and 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 94 American workers were killed in trench collapses. In 2016, 23 U.S. workers died and 12 were injured in collapses. A cubic yard of soil weighs up to 3000 pounds, the weight of a mid-sized automobile. A trench collapse may contain three to five cubic yards of soil.