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Fatal Pit Collapse: The Importance of Shoring

Professional Safety – On August 5th, prosecutors charged two construction managers with manslaughter after a tragic accident at a New York site in April. A 22-year-old immigrant worker was crushed to death when the walls of a site collapsed around him. He was reportedly working in a pit 14-feet deep without shoring or other fortifications. According to prosecutors, the two managers “ignored repeated warnings for months from private inspectors that treacherous conditions existed at the site”, and they failed to act when an inspector reiterated the necessity for safety measures hours before the incident. One manager told workers to exit the unsafe trench about 2 hours after an inspector’s notice, but none of the workers exited the pit and the manager left without ensuring follow-through. Shortly after, the pit collapsed, fatally crushing one of the workers.

“Construction is one of the most hazardous jobs, made even more so by the lax management oversight, willful disregard of regulations and inadequate protective measures”

Investigators noted that language may have been an issue, since the managerial directions were given in English while most of the workers spoke only Spanish. However this is no excuse for sidestepping proper safety procedures, or for failing to ensure safe working conditions. City officials claim the death was foreseeable and avoidable while lawyers for the managers claim they bear no criminal responsibility. They have pleaded not guilty. While the case continues, The Buildings Department of New York has issued a stop-work order on the contractor and suspended the firm’s general contractor registrations, deeming them “immediately hazardous to the public”.

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