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Safety reforms after fatal building collapse spark contention

The whole of Pennsylvania reeled this past June when a building wall being demolished in Philadelphia toppled and crushed a Salvation Army thrift store. Six people died. Fourteen were injured.

Lawsuits over issues of premises liability have launched and are pending. Meanwhile, a special committee of the City Council in that city has spent the past few months holding special hearings to assess what reforms might be needed to improve public safety on demolition and construction sites going forward. 

This week, a package of five bills was introduced before the City Council. But while there is widespread support for the goals of the various measures, there appears to be some contention among officials about the specifics in the proposals.

According to reports, the mayor's office is pushing back on some of the provisions, and there's also some division among members of the special committee about whether some of the proposals go too far, especially as they might affect small contractors and workers who may not hold legal documentation.

One specific provision apparently raising concerns is one that would require contractors to have a full-time safety monitor on any active demolition site. A letter from the mayor's chief of staff says that might run afoul of federal law which makes site safety the purview of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Another proposal that would require all workers at a site to carry IDs issued by the city has at least one City Council member uneasy. She says that it could be too costly for small contractors and serve to block workers without proper documentation from getting gainful employment.

The mayor, who implemented stepped up regulations by executive order in the days after the June tragedy, says he will work with Council members on resolving issues.

Source: Philly.com, "Rifts emerge over demolition regulations," Sean Collins Walsh, Oct. 4, 2013 

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