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December 02, 2013
OSHA comes down hard on contractors for deadly building collapse

OSHA says two Philadelphia contractors sacrificed the safety of workers and the public by neglecting fundamentals of safe building demolition, resulting in 6 deaths and 14 injuries. Keep reading for details on this tragic yet altogether preventable incident.

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The incident occurred in June during demolition of a four-story downtown building. According to OSHA, the collapse occurred because one contractor removed critical lateral support walls, leaving the wall that collapsed unsupported. In addition, parts of the lower floors were removed prior to removal of the upper floors, in direct contradiction to OSHA’s safety standards for demolition work. OSHA claims one of the contractors also failed to deliver a promised engineering survey addressing the possibility of collapse.

There were additional problems, including failure to provide employees with required protections such as hard hats, fall protection training, and adequate fall arrest systems.

One contractor was slapped with $313,000 in fines; the other was fined $84,000. The list of citations includes three willful per-instance violations for each day that the contractor left the wall without sufficient support. Two other willful egregious citations were issued for failure to demolish the building from the top down as required.  

OSHA underscores the many dangers of demolition

According to OSHA, demolition work involves many of the hazards associated with construction. But demolition workers face additional risks due to many unknown factors. These include:

  • Deviations from the structure’s design introduced during construction;
  • Approved or unapproved modifications that altered the original design;
  • Materials hidden within structural elements of the building; and
  • Unknown strengths or weaknesses of construction materials.

OSHA notes that, “Planning for a demolition job is as important as actually doing the work. Therefore all planning work should be performed by a competent person experienced in all phases of the demolition work to be performed.”

Demolition hazards are addressed in specific OSHA standards for the general and construction industries.

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