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2 Contractors Cited in Philly Collapse

Monday, November 18, 2013

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Federal authorities have proposed nearly $400,000 in fines against two contractors responsible for demolishing a downtown Philadelphia building that collapsed onto a thrift store in June, killing six people and injuring 13.

One survivor, pinned in the wreckage for 12 hours, lost both legs in the collapse. Mariya Plekan was released from the hospital Wednesday (Nov. 13).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Griffin Campbell (d/b/a Campbell Construction) and Sean Benschop (d/b/a S&R Contracting) for 13 safety violations, including three willful per-instance violations.

@RonniePhilly / Twitter

Citations have been issued against Campbell Construction and S&R Contracting in the Philadelphia building collapse that killed six people and injured 13 on June 5.

“Campbell Construction and S&R Contracting sacrificed worker and public safety through the deliberate neglect of demolition safety fundamentals,” OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels said in a release issued Thursday (Nov. 14).

“This tragic incident could and should have been prevented.”

OSHA proposed penalties of $313,000 for Campbell Construction and $84,000 for S&R Contracting

The Deadly Collapse

Campbell Construction had been hired to demolish a four-story building known as the “Hoagie City” building in Center City, Philadelphia. The structure was owned by STB Investments, which is owned by developer Richard Basciano.

On the morning of June 5, Sean Benschop, an equipment operator working under the direction of Campbell Construction, was tearing down the building’s interior walls and floors when the building collapsed onto the Salvation Army Thrift Store next door.

The collapse killed six people in the store: Anne Bryan, 52; Roseline Conteh, 52; Borbor Davis, 68; Kimberly Finnegan, 35; Juanita Harmin and Mary Simpson, 24.

A security camera in a bus captured the tragic scene as it was driving by the stretch of businesses.

Benschop is currently in jail facing six counts of involuntary manslaughter and 13 counts of reckless endangerment for his involvement. He is being held on $1.6 million bail.

The 42-year-old was allegedly operating the machinery while under the influence of drugs.

Victims and their families have also filed numerous civil suits stemming from the collapse.

Willful Violations Discovered

During its investigation, OSHA found that in the three days leading up to the collapse, Campbell Construction “removed critical, structural supports for the wall that collapsed,” the agency reported. OSHA’s demolition standards prohibit the removal of lateral support walls more than one story high, leaving the wall unsupported.

Campbell Construction also removed parts of the lower floors before removing the upper floors, again, contrary to the OSHA standards, the agency alleged.

PhilaGov / YouTube

Following the collapse, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections announced new initiatives for demolition sites and contractors, including new standards for permits and site inspections.vgtf

As a result, Campbell Construction was cited for three alleged willful, egregious violations for June 3, 4, and 5—each day that it left the wall without sufficient lateral support.

Two additional willful violations were also issued, alleging the failures to demolish the building from the top down and to have an engineering survey by a competent person on the possibility of collapse prior to starting the demolition.

Each willful violation carries $70,000 in proposed penalty fines, except for the engineering survey, which did not indicate a fine, according to OSHA documents.

S&R Contracting was cited for one alleged willful violation, carrying a $70,000 proposed fine, for permitting an “exterior masonry wall approximately 3 stories in height that was not self-supported and without lateral bracing to stand alone exposing employees to crushing hazards.”

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health, according to OSHA.

Serious Violations Alleged

Additionally, Campbell Construction was cited for four serious violations, carrying penalties of $7,000 each, alleging failure to provide:

  • Employees with 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; and
  • Adequate personal fall arrest systems.

OSHA said Campbell Construction also failed to inspect all stairs periodically and to maintain them in a clean, safe condition, which resulted in a serious violation with a $5,000 proposed fine.

S&R Contracting was cited for two alleged serious violations for failing to protect employees from falling through holes and to provide fall hazard training. Each serious violation carried a proposed fine of $7,000.

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.

Both companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director in Philadelphia, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. 

The companies do not have a record of past violations with OSHA.

Investigation Continues

OSHA officials told members of the media that separate investigations of other entities involved in the collapse are also underway. The regulators have three weeks to cite any additional parties.

An attorney representing the families of some of the collapse victims told NBC News that OSHA’s citations were appropriate.

“At the end of the day we believe that the evidence will show this flawed plan originated with Richard Basciano and STB, and that the Salvation Army had a clear opportunity to avoid this tragedy,” attorney Steven Wigrizer said.


Tagged categories: Construction; Contractors; Demolition; Fall protection; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Violations

Comment from Chuck Pease, (11/18/2013, 7:06 PM)

"At the end of the day we believe that the evidence will show this flawed plan originated with Richard Basciano and STB, and that the Salvation Army had a clear opportunity to avoid this tragedy,” attorney Steven Wigrizer said." Ok I dont get this upper paragraph. It clearly attempts to make the SA Salvation Army culpable. Where in the article do you editors share that the SA had anything to do with this fiasco. The job was let and there was nothing in the planning stages that woould have allowed the SA to know that there would be alledged negligence on the part of the contractors that were doing the demo work. Come on D & D Collateral damage right. Bolderdash!!!

Comment from Chuck Pease, (11/18/2013, 7:08 PM)

Just an attempt early on to spread the liability.

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