On June 5, 2013, a building undergoing demolition collapsed onto the neighboring Salvation Army Thrift Store at the southeast corner of 22nd and Market Streets in Center City Philadelphia, killing six and trapping many people under the rubble. Investigators determined that an unsupported brick wall left over from demolition to an adjacent building, fell and crushed the Salvation Army store. At the time, the store was open and full of shoppers and staff.
An OSHA investigation determined that two demolition contractors allegedly ignored both OSHA standards and industry best practices when they removed the supports for a four-story wall that later collapsed.
The contractors (Campbell Construction) were indicted and went to trial. The jury found that the defendants exhibited neglectful conduct in the days leading up to the tragedy. They were found guilty of manslaughter and received prison sentences of 15 years to 30 years, and 7.5 years to 15 years, respectively, and they were heavily fined.
Blatant Violations and Safety Failures
OSHA cited several violations of its demolition construction standards. Campbell Construction allegedly removed critical structural supports three days before the collapse. OSHA demolition standards prohibit the removal of lateral support walls more than one story higher. This action left the walls unsupported and at risk of collapse.
OSHA also issued citations for serious violations and failures to provide:
- hard hats when there was a possible risk of head injury
- fall protection for employees working on surfaces at least six feet high
- training on fall hazards
- adequate personal fall arrest systems
- inspect all stairs periodically and to maintain them in a clean, safe condition
A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known if an accident were to occur.
The corner of and and Market streets, June 5, 2013. | Photograph courtesy of Michael Bryant/Associated Press
Philadelphia in The Spotlight- Reforms and New Rules
The incident in June of 2013 made national headlines and ignited controversy surrounding construction surveillance in Philadelphia. At the time, the city did not require demolition contractors to establish their qualifications.
On June 7, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced new demolition rules and standards designed to prevent similar tragedies. The new rules required the same level of city monitoring and contractor expertise at private demolition sites that are required during demolition at public sites. The new rules prohibit contractors from using heavy machinery to demolish buildings adjacent to occupied structures, which was done at the 22nd and Market demolition. City inspectors were sent to over 300 demolition sites to check for safety violations.
Tragic Suicide of Building Inspector
As a sad side note to the fatalities and injuries that occurred on site that morning, on June 12, 2013, Ronald Wagenhoffer, the 52-year-old City Department of Licenses and Inspections inspector responsible for inspecting the demolition site, was found dead in his truck with a gunshot to the chest. His death was ruled a suicide.
OSHA Demolition Safety Requirements
OSHA has outlined a detailed list of safety requirements that demolition contractors must follow in order to avoid fines and possible injury or death at a job site. According to OSHA, lack of an “engineering survey” or slack “preparatory operations” account for more than one-half to three-quarters of all citations and injuries when conducting a demolition project.
Here is the list of OSHA Demolition Requirements:
Demolition work is similar to construction in that it involves many of the same activities and safety requirements as construction. However, with demolition there are many potential unknown hazards that create another level of concern.
For this reason, OSHA created the Subpart T – Demolition standards specifically for these operations.
Demonstrate Constant Vigilance
Even after 10 years, the fatal accident in Philadelphia still has an impact on the city. It’s imperative that demolition contractors be very aware of conducting the proper preliminary work, but also the continued safety vigilance and compliance throughout the demolition project.
Compliance Consultants, Inc. has professional expertise and trained safety staff to advise you regarding a demolition project. We can assist you every step of the way.
Contact us Today for a Consultation