On April 6, 2015, C. Moncayo, 22, a laborer from Queens, was making a living as he worked on the construction of a Restoration Hardware store located at 19 Ninth Avenue in Manhattan. Instead of bringing home a paycheck, he died when a 14-foot-deep trench collapsed on top of him, burring him alive under soil and debris.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation into Moncayo’s death, finding that the general contractor on the project, Harco Construction LLC of New York City, and Moncayo’s employer, a subcontractor by the name of Sky Materials Corp. of Calverton and Maspeth, failed to provide cave-in protection.
The employers also failed to provide support for an unsupported sidewalk to prevent it from collapsing into the trench.
OSHA’s investigation resulted in two citations on Oct. 5 for each employer for willful violations of workplace safety standards. The agency proposed fines of $140,000 for each company, the maximum allowable fines under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
An employer commits a “willful violation” when they intentionally, knowingly, or voluntarily disregard the law’s requirements, or when they show an indifference to the health and safety of workers.
Kay Gee, OSHA’s area director in Manhattan called Moncayo’s death “completely avoidable.” Had the trench been guarded correctly against a collapse, he wouldn’t have died in a cave in, said Gee.
She continued, saying that the managers at Harco and Sky Materials were aware of the deadly hazards and failed to remove employees from the trench, even after project safety officials issued warnings.
According to Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York, 18 construction workers in New York City have died on the job this year. He says that’s an unacceptable toll.
On Aug. 5, officials from each company were indicted on manslaughter charges stemming from Moncayo’s death in the New York Supreme Court.