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Committee Investigating Philadelphia Building Collapse

A second hearing was held today on the fatal Philadelphia building collapse that occurred recently in Center City. The construction accident left six people dead and more than a dozen injured when a building that was being demolished fell on top of an adjacent building that housed a Salvation Army store. The collapse occurred during the late morning hours when there were many shoppers in the store.

At the hearing, the head of the Philadelphia building trades union blamed the accident on the city’s lack of oversight of demolition projects. The business manager for Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council said “no one enforces anything” after a demolition permit has been handed out by the city.

A total of five hearings will be held on the accident, at which individuals will be called testify before an investigative committee made up of five city council members. At today’s hearing, a city council member said that the building owner picked the cheapest bid for the demolition and doing demolitions for cheap often means that people aren’t adequately trained.

Another council member added that it is possible to obtain a construction permit in the city of Philadelphia for just $200. When construction companies do not have the proper experience or fail to follow safety guidelines, they can create a serious threat to safety as the June 5 incident clearly demonstrates.

The committee has said that it will not be investigating the cause of the June 5 building collapse, but instead will focus on whether oversight or management problems contributed to it so that similar incidents can be prevented in the future. The leader of the committee said the purpose is not to assess blame but rather to update policy if need be.

At last week’s hearing, the committee heard testimony from the Deputy Mayor and the Licenses and Inspections Commissioner on the current policy and procedural requirements. However, they could not answer specific questions about the June 5 accident because of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s ongoing grand jury investigation.

Source: NBC Philadelphia, “Building Collapse Hearing: Union Leader Says Lack of Oversight Should Keep People Up at Night,” Maryclaire Dale, June 27, 2013