Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and the Department of Licenses and Inspection announced that the city is changing the way buildings are demolished in response to a four-story building collapse in Center City that killed six people and injured 13 others this week.
“I am saddened about what happened in my city. I commit to you that we will make every effort to spare no resources, find out what went wrong in this incident, and we will take every possible action that we can take to fix whatever systems, processes, or procedures that need to be fixed in order to better ensure our collective public safety,” Nutter promised the victims and their families.
The city was notified of potential unsafe demolition practices happening at the site of Wednesday’s deadly building collapse nearly a month before it happened. A resident contacted the city's Philly 311 helpline concerned about the safety of demolition workers and pedestrians walking on the sidewalk.
But nothing was done in part because city demolition contractors are lightly regulated.
On active demolitions, the city has order all inspectors to visit sites with active demolition permits to check safety conditions and any other possible violations. All new permit applications for complete demolition must now include the following documents and requirements before a permit can be issued:
- experience and qualifications of the contractor performing the demolition
- experiences and qualifications of the owner and company
- site-safety plan detailing how the contractor plans to protect pedestrians and adjacent properties
- contractor must show length of time for each stage of the project
- a professional engineer’s report on adjacent property protection for demolition of commercial buildings above three stories
- no active violations for contractor and review of all previous violations
The following procedures must also be followed on demolition inspections, according to Nutter.
- On initial inspections, the inspector must conduct a site safety review with the contractor prior to the start of work to review steps for protecting adjacent properties and pedestrians.
- The inspector will be now required to review schedule of work with the contractor during each inspection to ensure compliance.
- If the required notification of the start of work is not received from the contractor, the inspector will visit the site every 15 business days from the permit’s date of issuance. The permit will be revoked after 45 days if there is no evidence of legitimate work started at the permitted demolition site.
- If the city finds the contractor working without the required notification, the inspector will iissue a Stop Work Order until a hearing is held regarding the contractor’s failure and the site safety review is completed with the inspector and the contractor.
- L & I will investigate all complaints within a 24-48 hour period, immediately implement a quality assurance plan and coordinate with the Department of Revenue to ensure that all demolition contractors and/or subcontractors provide proof of proper insurance and tax clearances for all employees before any building permit is approved.
The Department of Licenses and Inspections said it had 300 open demolition permits throughout the city; inspectors had visited about 30 of the sites by Thursday afternoon and planned to get to the rest by next week.
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