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Jul
2016
20

Despite Lenient Sentence in High-Profile Workplace Death, Contractor Refuses to Abide

HARCO MONCAYO

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A judge has ruled that Manhattan-based Harco Construction is guilty of manslaughter in relation to the April 2015 death of 22-year-old Carlos Moncayo. Though Judge A. Kirke Bartley handed down a relatively light sentence — either make a televised public service announcement or pay a $10,000 fine — the firm’s attorney said they “will not do it” because they “didn’t do anything wrong.”

WAIT, what? Is that how this works?

The attorney, Ron Fischetti, instead lays the blame at the feet of subcontractor Sky Materials Corporation. “We’re certainly going to appeal,” he said. “It’s Harco’s reputation. This verdict is completely improper.”

Responsibility for subcontractor behavior is an important subject in the construction industry. Blame deflection is rampant and this case was viewed as an opportunity to buck that trend.

Moncayo was working in an excavation trench in the Meatpacking District when a city safety inspector visited the site and determined the pit was structurally unsound. The inspector ordered workers to evacuate immediately, but the walls collapsed before Moncayo could escape.

These kinds of accidents have been on the rise lately, according to the Commercial Observer:

Moncayo’s death was one in a string of construction-related accidents, many fatal, coming amid the current construction boom. Last year alone, the number of such accidents—including multiple injuries and deaths—spiked 40 percent to 323 compared with 231 in 2014, according to a New York City Department of Buildings analysis previously provided to CO. Prosecutors have begun targeting repeat violators, especially at job sites consistently fined for safety violations, as CO reported last month.

Remarkably, Harco is refusing to obey the sentence despite it’s leniency. Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, was appalled at the light sentence:

“Today’s sentencing of Harco Construction was a travesty as the court’s options were either to inflict a small fine or give a conditional discharge pending they fund a series of PSA’s…

Neither option is even close to what is deserved when a reckless contractor so clearly puts profits over people.”

LaBarbera admits that a guilty verdict “is certainly progress in the fight for workers’ rights and sends a strong message that negligent contractors will be held accountable.” He asserted the Building Trades’ solidarity with the family of Carlos Moncayo.

Sky Materials Corporation is to be tried separately. No verdict has been delivered yet.

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