Demolition tragedy spurs City Council report on worksite safety

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2013 | Workplace Accidents

Philadelphia appears to be on track for some big changes in city ordinances and regulations regarding site safety where building demolition is involved. The City Council has issued a massive report laying out 71 different recommendations.

The report comes in the wake of the June tragedy in which a building under demolition collapsed onto a Salvation Army thrift shop. Six people died and 14 others were injured in that workplace accident, sparking a number of lawsuits.  But the report also cites three other incidents that occurred in subsequent months that involved demolition or construction site safety problems.

According to the report, each of the sites had been granted permits and been inspected by the appropriate city officials. It says that the only conclusion to be drawn is that the current permit and inspection processes aren’t up to the task of protecting workers and the public.

Among the key proposals made in the report are the following:

  • Safety plans specific to a project filed with each demolition permit application.
  • Requiring that every worker at a site complete specified safety training.
  • The presence of an independent monitor on sites involving demolitions of buildings more than three stories tall.
  • Better Department of Licenses & Inspections staffing to handle compliance.
  • Granting more authority to Fire Department officials to enforce health and building codes.

The recommendations are the result of a special Council committee. Members held five hearings over the course of the summer and heard testimony from a broad range of city officials, industry experts, labor representatives and the public.

Committee officials acknowledge that the recommendations will need to be codified in city ordinances. Curtis Jones Jr., the chairman of the panel, says that work is already being started. Another member of the committee notes that many of the recommendations reflect changes that the mayor made days after the Salvation Army store tragedy. She predicts others will be on the books by Christmas.

Source:, “Council panel recommends reforms in response to collapse,” Bob Warner, Sept. 28, 2013