Two men being sued in connection with the deadly building collapse that
took place in June in downtown Philadelphia have been cited by the federal government for safety violations.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Thursday the citations against demolition contractor Griffin Campbell and a laborer working with him, Sean Benschop, in connection with the June 5 building collapse on Market Street that killed six people and injured more than a dozen more.
Campbell’s firm, Campbell Construction, had been hired to demolish a vacant building that sat adjacent to a Salvation Army thrift store.
An un-braced wall ended up falling on top of the thrift shop’s roof, crushing shoppers and workers who had been in the store, which was open at the time despite apparent warnings that the demolition work may have posed a safety hazard.
“Campbell Construction and S&R Contracting sacrificed worker and public safety through the deliberate neglect of demolition safety fundamentals,” David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in a statement released by OSHA. “This tragic incident could and should have been prevented.”
An OSHA news release says that the agency found several violations of its demolition construction standards.
For one thing, Campbell’s firm removed “critical, structural supports” for the wall that ended up collapsing on top of the Salvation Army store.
OSHA’s demolition standards bar the removal of lateral support walls more than one story high, the news release states.
The demolition firm also removed portions of the lower floors before the removal of the upper floors, another no-no under OSHA rules.
Lastly, Campbell Construction failed to provide an engineering survey with regard to the project as promised, OSHA stated.
“As a result, Campbell Construction has been cited for three willful, egregious violations for each day that it left the wall without sufficient lateral support, and two willful violations 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,” the OSHA news release states.
The agency defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
S&R Contracting, Benschop’s company, which was operating the building’s interior walls and floors, was given one willful violation citation.
Campbell’s firm was also cited for serious violations for its failure to provide employees with hard hats when a possible risk of head injury existed, failing to provide fall protection for employees, failing to provide training on fall hazards, and failing to provide adequate personal fall arrest systems.
S&R received two serious violations for failing to protect employees from falling through holes and failing to provide fall hazard training, according to OSHA.
The agency describes a “serious violation” as one that occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard known to the employer.
OSHA has proposed penalties of $313,000 for Campbell Construction and $84,000 for S&R.
Campbell and Benshop are both named as defendants in lawsuits relating to the building collapse.
Benshop is the only person who has been charged criminally in connection with the incident.
A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge has since stayed all civil litigation relating to the collapse while a criminal grand jury process plays out.
The Philadelphia Business Journal reported Thursday that there is a separate investigation into other entities tied to the building collapse, although specifics weren’t revealed, including whether or not the subjects include Richard Basciano, who is the owner of the demolished building, the Salvation Army or others.