Business Owner Gets Prison Time for Employee Death

A New Jersey construction company owner was sentenced to three months in prison following his guilty plea to willfully violating OSHA regulations resulting in the death of a worker.

Finbar O’Neill, the owner of OneKey LLC, was sentenced on May 12, 2023, for willfully violating an OSHA standard leading to an employee’s death at a Poughkeepsie, New York, construction site on Aug. 3, 2017. In addition, O’Neill was sentenced to one year of supervised release, and his company was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $218,417 in fines.

Improperly Designed Retaining Wall Collapsed

In 2017, OneKey and O’Neill were hired to implement a soil compaction plan at a construction site in Poughkeepsie, New York. The plan involved piling large quantities of dirt, called surcharges, on top of the sites of three future buildings. An engineering firm designed the plan for the use of these surcharges.

However, OneKey and O’Neill didn’t follow the plan and instead built a wall to hold back one of the surcharges so workers could get started on the buildings next to it. O’Neill and his company didn’t consult with any qualified person to see if the wall could withstand the weight that would be placed on it by the surcharge.

While work was done next to the wall, OneKey used construction machinery to add dirt to the surcharge pressing up against the wall. People working near the wall weren’t warned that it was a hazard. Some workers told O’Neill and OneKey that the wall wasn’t safe, but they didn’t correct the problem.

On Aug. 3, 2017, workers complained that construction vehicles were driving on top of the surcharge and adding more dirt. Later the same day, the wall collapsed. As it fell, one worker ran away from the collapsing wall but couldn’t get away in time and was killed.

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