If you’re from around the Philadelphia area, you might remember the building collapse next to the Salvation Army this summer. The collapse killed six people and injured 14. I remember seeing this story develop on the news a few months ago and wondering what was going to happen with those involved. What would the results of the investigation reveal? We have our answer.
The United States Department of Labor’s Occupation Safety and Health Administration has cited two companies, Campbell Construction and S&R Contracting for several safety violations. Three willful per-instance violations were doled out, meaning they were committed knowing they were in violation of the law. While Campbell Construction was demolishing the four-story building next to the Salvation Army store in Philadelphia, S&R was working on the building’s interior walls and floors. OSHA found them to be deliberately negligent of fundamental safety precautions, stating that the tragedy could have been prevented.
Campbell Construction had removed structural supports of the wall that later collapsed, a direct violation of OSHA demolition standards. They also removed part of the lower floor before parts of the upper floors, again contradicting OSHA standards. They also did not provide an engineering survey that they were supposed to. Those actions earned then three willful and egregious violations for each day they left the wall without structural support, and two willful violations for failing to demolish the building from the top down and failing to complete the engineering survey.
The construction company also received serious violations for failure to provide hard hats when head injuries were possible, failing to provide fall protection for surfaces over six feet high, failing to provide training for fall hazards and failing to provide adequate personal fall arrest systems. OSHA found they did not inspect the stairs or maintain them to keep them in a satisfactory condition. S&R Contracting has received one willful violation for allowing sections of the wall taller than one story to stand alone without proper bracing. They also received serious violations for failing to protect employees from falling through holes or providing proper fall hazard training.
Campbell Construction is looking at fines of $313,000 while S&R faces an $84,000 penalty. These are huge fines, and rightly so. In 2013 OSHA inspected over 20,000 work sites and only issued 28 fines exceeding $100,000. Other Philadelphia departments, such as the Department of Licenses and Inspections, have taken notice and are ramping up their construction safety efforts.
“If the two employers had followed very obvious and very basic safety precautions … no lives would have been lost,” said David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.