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June 12, 2013

The Courage to Say “No”
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

I’m trying to understand the players in the Philly building collapse, but it’s a challenge when the reporters don’t seem to understand and the attorneys jockey for position. From what I can tell, the building owner hired Griffen Cambell as demolition contractor for $122,000 to demolish this four story building on the left.

Then Griffen Cambell hired Sean Benschop to operate a hydraulic excavator. Apparently Benschop tested positive for cannabis and Percocet after the accident and now sits in jail with no bail. He faces 6 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Griffen Campbell and the building owner were both on site at the time of the collapse, but their attorney says they didn’t know that Benschop was performing demo work. They thought he was only cleaning up debris. Of course, that’s a ludicrous statement.

They also stated that the building was to be torn down by hand, brick by brick. But there was no scaffolding on the job…just a hydraulic excavator pulling down the walls.

The workers in the adjacent Salvation Army retail store apparently complained about bricks falling on the roof for the past few days. It’s also reported that OSHA and the City building officials were on site previously and didn’t stop the demolition.

Seems to me that lots of folks had the opportunity and responsibility to say “No”, but none had the strength of convictions or the courage. Take the time now to think about this type situation. Prepare yourself to make that hard call if you find yourself in that position.

Somebody will lose some money, people will be mad at you, and you won’t know for sure if you are right or just being too cautious. But don’t be a coward and walk away from the hard decision, just hoping everything will fall right. When it doesn’t, it’s a big deal.


June 7, 2013

When Things Fail
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

Six people died yesterday in Philadelphia when a 4 story building being demolished collapsed on the adjacent Salvation Army Thrift Store.

“You felt it shake,” Jordan McLaughlin told CNN affiliate KYW. “There was people that actually fell over. People started screaming, they ran across the street. There was people inside the building, you heard them scream.”

He said he helped two people out of the building. Other bystanders, including construction workers, helped four or five others out in the moments after the collapse.

This first photo from Google Maps shows the street view before the building collapse.

While the next photo shows the rubble. Imagine shopping in that Thrift Store at the time of the collapse?

The crews demolishing the 4 story building certainly felt they were proceeding in a safe manner. But then the unexpected happened.

The day before, I got called to look at a wood frame renovation project we’re doing, because the structure wasn’t normal. As we stood there looking at what we saw vs what we had assumed, I kept asking the opinion of Andy Hess, the project superintendent. Andy looks like a big old biker (which he is), but knows more about how wood structures actually work than I ever will. His practical knowledge trumps my theoretical knowledge.

I’m glad I learned, early in my career, to ask lots of questions of the folks doing the work and to listen intently and respectfully to their answers. They don’t always say it in the clearest manner, but the best insights and solutions often come from these guys.

Arrogance on the jobsite is always the wrong approach.


May 29, 2013

Crane Falls on Russian Apartment Building
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

When you see that amazing thing and think, “Wow, I wish I had a video camera.” Well, this guy in Kiev, Russia caught that incredible shot below.


As you do your work this week, remember that the guy running the crane that day was not planning to have an accident. He just wasn’t paying proper attention. Don’t let this week be your last, from something you can prevent.

By the way, that crane accident tore the balconies off the apartment building and damaged a few cars, but no humans were injured.


April 24, 2013

Common Sense and Building Collapse
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

An eight story building collapsed in Bangledesh today, killing at least 87 people. The USA Today story notes that three stories were approved and the rest were likely built without permits. That’s crazy enough, but the quote below amazes me.

Workers said they hesitated to go to work Wednesday because the building had developed such severe cracks the previous day that it had been reported on local news channels.

Abdur Rahim, who worked on the fifth floor, said a factory manager assured them there was no problem, so they went inside.

“We started working. After about an hour or so the building collapsed suddenly,” he said. He next remembered regaining consciousness outside the building.

Can you imagine telling your workers to ignore the big cracks in the building and just get to work? Even though we rarely have failures this egregious in America, it still should remind us to use our common sense for safety. Pay attention to items that could cause failures and accidents. Don’t sacrifice all on the altar of productivity.

Bangladeshi volunteers prepare lengths of textiles to be used as evacuation slides for the injured and dead after a building collapsed in Savar. (Photo: Munir Uz Zaman, AFP/Getty Images)


April 12, 2013

Third World Construction Friday Fun
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

Here is a video that should make you grateful if you live in the developed world.


That method of constructing multi-story buildings makes me almost nauseous. The poor quality materials, the lack of inspection and oversight and the untrained labor makes the many building collapses in India make sense.

Be glad if you live in a place with working codes, building inspectors and penalties for not playing by the rules.


April 8, 2013

Earthwork Dangers
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

Two kids exploring a hole on a house construction site in NC were killed yesterday. The six and seven year old cousins climbed into a trench, supposedly over 15 feet deep, that was dug earlier in the day by the guy building the house. The photo below shows the scene.

What a poignant reminder for safe trenches and also for covering up work to keep curious kids from getting into trouble. We work in a dangerous business, we need to continue to remind each other to work to the highest safety standards.


April 5, 2013

Thank Your Building Inspector Today
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

Yesterday a building collapsed near Mumbai, India that killed at at least 41 people with dozens more missing or injured. The photo shows the rescuers searching for survivors.

Four of the floors were completed and occupied, while another three floors were completed and a fourth was being built. The problem, though, is that the building was designed for only four floors and the others were being added without permits or oversight.

The article states:

Building collapses are common in India as builders try to cut corners by using poor-quality materials and multi-storey structures are built with inadequate supervision.

A local resident, who did not give his name, said the site was only meant to hold a smaller structure and said officials turned a blind eye to the problem.

“They made an eight-storey building of what was supposed to be a four-storey building. People from the municipality used to visit the building but the builder still continued to add floors,” he said.

Police will arrest the builders, but think of all those that died (11 of them were children) and take a moment to be thankful that you work in an environment with plan reviews, permits and building inspectors. Tell your building inspector this story and thank him for the work he does. It helps keep competition fair…and keeps us out of jail.


January 16, 2013

Construction Disasters in American History
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

I decided to take my own advice to slow down, so I’m taking my youngest daughter for a two day ski trip. I’m sure I’ll be going much slower than her. Here’s a guest blog that I found thought provoking.

Construction continues to be one of the most dangerous professions in the world, claiming thousands of lives to date. Construction safety is often overlooked and the results are sometimes disastrous. Here’s at a look at some of the worst construction accidents in American History:

The Hoover Dam

With the Hoover Dam weighing in at 6.6 million tons, it’s not hard to imagine that there were a lot of worker fatalities during the construction process. One estimate puts the total death toll at 112, with the first death being surveyor J.G Tierny in 1922. Tierny drowned in the Colorado River while scouting the best location for the dam. Although this was eight year before the dam’s construction began, some still group it with the rest of the construction deaths. Ironically,  Tierny’s son Patrick was the LAST person to die during the dam’s construction, falling to his death exactly 13 years to the day of J.G Tierny’s death.

Willow Island

One of the worst construction disasters in American history was the accident that occurred at Willow Island, West Virginia in 1978. During the construction of a cooling tower the scaffolding collapsed, causing 51 workers to fall to their deaths. The day of the incident OSHA visited the site to make assessments and determine why the disaster occurred. They determined there was a lack of ladders for escape, bolts were loose or missing on certain parts of the structure, and concrete was not given enough time to properly settle. The Willow Island incident is an unsettling look at what happens when construction jobs are rushed and improperly monitored for safety.

Hawk’s Nest Tunnel

One of the most notoriously disastrous construction sites in American history is the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel. However the incident that occurred at Hawk’s Nest Tunnel wasn’t necessarily a physical disaster.  Construction began in 1927 to create a 3-4 mile tunnel that would help generate power for a local plant downstream. During the construction silica was discovered, a mineral used for creating glass products. Workers were then asked to start mining the silica, and almost none of them received the proper breathing equipment for inhaling the dust. The results were deadly- workers became ill with silicosis, a deadly lung disease that attacks the lungs. The biggest toll estimates the number at over 1000 deaths, although that’s a lot more than the more conservative estimate of 476.

East 51st Street

In 2008 a fatal incident occurred in New York City during the construction of a 40 story apartment building on East 51st Street. Workers were attaching a steel collar in order to raise a tower crane higher when it snapped and fell, killing seven people. The accident was one of the worst in modern New York history, and construction on the building has been halted ever since.

Jason Kane writes about the importance of ladders, safety lanyards and construction safety equipment in general.


December 28, 2012

Chain Sawing for Fun and Disaster
Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

I’m planning to do some chainsawing this winter, both for firewood and to make some cool stuff. Here’s an attachment that I need to get for my chainsaw. I’ll let you know how it works out.


Then here’s a quick video that just makes me laugh…since it is a Fun Friday.


Finally, if you love chainsaws (there must be some other weirdos out there) check out this Wayne’s Chainsaw Museum video.  There are lots of other training videos at Stihl.


November 13, 2012

Filed under: safety — Tags: — nedpelger

While I love the outlook for natural gas, this photo makes me respect the downside. Click on it and look carefully at the details. Fire and flying debris expanding at a hellish level.

We are renovating an old factory into loft apartments and hit an old gas line that the utility company thought was abandoned, but wasn’t. We were fortunate that nothing bad happened…especially when a photo like this shows what bad looks like.

I suppose I should say that the investigators for the photo above haven’t yet confirmed gas as the cause of the explosion. Though they did rule out a meth lab explosion. Yeah, I think this is a different scale. For this magnitude, you need a fuel source that keeps on giving.

Thanks to Kneal for the photo link, you surely know your destruction.

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