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CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

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.

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

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.