Pennsylvania Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Fatal Building Collapse

July 11, 2013

Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering stricter regulations on demolition projects in the wake of a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia last month that killed six people.

The House Labor & Industry and the Urban Affairs committees heard testimony Tuesday on proposed new mandates in the state’s uniform construction code.

One provision would require all applicants to obtain $1 million in liability insurance; another would require that licensed architects or building engineers prepare all applications.

Representatives from trade organizations and unions objected to some of the proposals, saying they would be costly and could be ineffective. Some also said new regulations won’t help if no one enforces them.

Despite the objections, testimony ran largely in support of tightening regulations.

Jim Dollard of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said that although additional requirements could make it more difficult for business owners, some changes are needed.

“We need people to start jumping through hoops when it comes to demolitions,” Dollard said, adding that the Department of Licenses and Inspections would need funding in order to enforce any new regulations. One provision in the bill would provide such funding by raising the cost of individual demolition permits by 15 percent.

Rep. William Keller, D-Philadelphia and chairman of the labor panel, said lawmakers will revise the bill in light of the testimony.

Besides the six people killed, 13 were injured when a four-story brick wall collapsed at the site June 5, burying 19 people inside a one-story Salvation Army thrift shop next door.

A demolition subcontractor has since been charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, and the city prosecutor has convened a grand jury to investigate whether anyone else should face criminal charges.

The week following the collapse, a building inspector who had visited the demolition site committed suicide.

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