In a move that caught many in the construction industry by surprise, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was granted power to increase their fines by the 2016 federal budget bill that recently passed Congress and was signed into law. The included provisions will allow OSHA to adjust fine amounts frozen since 1990 in order to reflect rising inflation that has occurred since then. Read more
This past June, a botched building demolition in Philadelphia left six people dead and another 13 injured. On Thursday, November 14th, 2013, Griffin Campbell of Campbell Construction and Sean Benschop of S&R Contracting were fined almost $400,000 between them by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The two contracting companies are accused of committing willful and serious breaches of standard demolition practices.
According to OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor, David Michaels, the tragedy that struck down on the corner of 22nd and Market Street in Philadelphia was easily preventable. “Campbell Construction and S&R Contracting sacrificed worker and public safety through the deliberate neglect of demolition safety fundamentals . . . This tragic incident could and should have been prevented,” said Michaels. Sean Benschop, an excavator operator who was working for Campbell, was allegedly high on drugs while operating the heavy machinery required of the job. He is currently in jail facing six counts of involuntary manslaughter, in addition to 13 counts of reckless endangerment. He is being held on $1.6 million bail, which was requested to be reduced, but that request was denied in September.
Several additional civil suits have been filed against Campbell and Benschop relating to this incident. “The finding of willful violations—the harshest OSHA penalty—against the demolition contractors Campbell Construction (Griffin Campbell) and S&R Contracting (Sean Benschop), leave no doubt that this catastrophe was caused by an utter lack of planning over months,” Robert Mongeluzzi, the attorney handling those civil lawsuits, said.
It seems that OSHA hopes this case will show everyone how important it is for contractors to uphold the agency’s construction demolition standards, the various dangers that exist as a part of demolition work, and how following precautionary protocols can prevent future tragedies.
Campbell and Benschop were cited by OSHA for a number of egregious and willful violations, and were given the maximum fines. Some of these violations include failure to demolish the building from the top down, and leaving an unsupported wall more than one-story high. “We hope these citations will send a clear message to employers in Philadelphia and across the country that cutting corners will be punished,” said Michaels.