Carlos Moncayo, a 22-year-old laborer from Queens, was trying to make a living as he worked on the construction of a Restoration Hardware store at 19 Ninth Ave. in Manhattan on April 6, 2015. Instead, his life ended that day when the 14-foot-deep trench in which he was working collapsed and buried him beneath tons of soil and debris.

An investigation by OSHA found that the project's general contractor, Harco Construction LLC of New York City, and Moncayo's employer, subcontractor Sky Materials Corp., of Maspeth and Calverton, did not provide cave-in protection* for the trench or support or brace a section of undermined and unsupported sidewalk to prevent it from collapsing into the trench.

OSHA issued each employer two citations for willful violations of workplace safety standards on Oct. 5. Proposed fines total $280,000 - $140,000 for each company - the maximum allowable fines under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A willful violation is committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Companies were warned, took no action

"Carlos Moncayo was a person, not a statistic. His death was completely avoidable. Had the trench been guarded properly against collapse, he would not have died in the cave-in," said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director in Manhattan. "Managers from Harco and Sky Materials were aware of these deadly hazards and did not remove employees from the trench, even after warnings from project safety officials. This unconscionable behavior needlessly and shamefully cost a man his life."

The citations can be viewed here* and here*.

"Eighteen New York City construction workers have died on the job this year. That is an unacceptable toll," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Construction work hazards are well-known, and so are safeguards to prevent deaths and injuries. Employers must provide a workplace that allows employees to return home safely at the end of each workday."

Criminal charges as well

OSHA has worked in cooperation with the New York City Department of Investigations, the New York City Department of Buildings, the New York Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office on the investigation. In connection with Moncayo's death, officials from both companies were indicted for manslaughter and other charges in the New York State Supreme Court on Aug. 5.