Council hears from construction safety experts

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke

City Council turned its attention to the construction industry’s best safety practices Thursday in the second hearing of its demolition investigation, prompted by the fatal building collapse that killed six people at 22nd and Market streets three weeks ago.

A series of safety experts from the building and construction trade unions described extensive safety training required  through union apprentice programs  and continuing thereafter.  Their over-riding message was that responsible building owners could find a number of experienced construction firms that made worker and public safety a priority in all their projects.  

 Bruce Crawley and Anthony Fullard described their involvement in an “emerging contractors program” they developed 10 years ago at the African American Chamber of Commerce. allowing 66 mostly-minority contractors to qualify for demolition work under the city’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, funded by bond proceeds under the Street administration to demolish hundreds of abandoned homes.

After going through 270 hours of classroom instruction in demolition practices as well as business management and related fields, plus hands-on training in the field, Crawley testified,  its graduates successfully bid and completed 201 residential demolitions, with a sum total of  one worker injury, who hurt his toe.

But several Council members were openly  wrestling with bigger issues: how to force building owners to deal responsibly with safety issues when for some, their focus may be on money – getting jobs done as economically as possible. “It’s all about money,” said Councilman Jim Kenney at one point, suggesting afterward to reporters that the city should consider pre-qualifying contractors in the different fields they want to work.

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