In the aftermath last week's fatal building collapse, the inadequacy of safeguards for demolition have become starkly clear. Now, everyone in the city is looking for places to point fingers (other than themselves, of course).
This morning, the department of License & Inspections released new demolition rules which require, among other things, that contractors have experience doing demolition work, and that they have a safety plan. Mayor Nutter has also proposed measures that will require City Council approval, including requiring background checks and drug-testing for heavy machinery equipment. (The operator of the crane was intoxicated at the time of the collapse.)
District Attorney Seth Williams is also jumping into the fray: a Grand Jury will be convened to determine if anyone other than the machinery operator is at fault for the collapse. The DA emphasized that the grand jury would not participate in a "rush to judgement", but it's clear that the pressure is on.
City Council is also in the mix. They've formed a special committee to take on the task of determining whether or not the city's procedures and policies for ensuring demolition safety are up to snuff. The committee doesn't have the power to change Licenses & Inspections, but they can make recommendations to Mayor Nutter, who said
We want to get to the truth and the truth will be the truth whatever it is and if there is legitimate criticism then that's what it will be. Our responsibility, certainly at that point is to take whatever reports come in, whether its from the five entities that I've mentioned or City Council's special committee --the point for us is to take the information and do something with it and make things better
It's good that city agencies are working to prevent another tragedy, but it's a little terrifying to think about the lack of certification processes and oversight for demolition contractors, especially in a city with as many attached buildings as Philly. And in light of last week's tragedy, it's clear that the city simply didn't act quickly enough.
· Philly D.A. convening grand jury in fatal building collapse [NewsWorks]
· City Council Plans to Investigate Building Collapse [Philly.com]
· Backhoe Operator Faces Criminal Charges in Building Collapse, Had Drugs in His System: Sources [CBS Philly]
· After collapse, Nutter announces new regulations for demolition contractors