By Mike Dunn and Jericka Duncan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In the wake of Wednesday’s demolition collapse in center city that killed six people, Mayor Michael Nutter today vowed to put new restrictions on how contractors in Philadelphia obtain demolition permits.
The mayor’s announcement amounted to a tacit acknowledgement that, until now, just about anyone could get a permit to carry out a demolition.
Nutter says he plans to change that.
“Our goal here is to increase public safety at these private demolition sites, to bring them up to the same high standards that we maintain on public demolition sites,” the mayor announced at a City Hall press conference. “We can do better and we will.”
Some of the changes are being enacted immediately. Permit applications must include — apparently for the first time — detailed information on who will actually perform the demolition:
“Details on the experience (and) qualifications of the contractor performing the demolition, including the demolition experience of the owner, the company, and its employees.”
Permit applications will also have to include a site safety plan and an engineer’s report on the protection of adjacent properties.
The mayor is also ordering stepped-up inspections of demolitions sites, and will ask City Council to approve through legislation the creation of a formal license for demolition contractors.
“Through these changes, we will hold local private developers, property owners, and demolition contractors to the same high standards to which we, as a city government, hold ourselves to any demolitions involving public property or public projects,” the mayor said.
Listen to Mayor Nutter’s Full Statement (runs 17:03)…
A press release issued today by the City of Philadelphia listed details of the new regulations:
“All inspectors were ordered to visit all sites with active demolition permits to proactively inspect for site safety conditions and any other possible violations.
“All new permit applications for complete demolition must include the following documents and requirements prior to issuance of the permit:
- Details on the experience and qualifications of the contractor performing the demolition including demolition experience of the owner and the company.
- A site-safety plan detailing how the contractor proposes to protect pedestrians and adjacent properties.
- A schedule of the demolition work. Contractor will show length of time for each stage of the project.
- Professional Engineer’s report on adjacent property protection for demolition of commercial buildings above three stories.
- No active violations for contractor and review of all previous violations.
“The following procedures will be implemented for demolition inspections;
1. Initial Inspections: Require the inspector to conduct a site safety review with the contractor prior to the start of work to review steps for protecting adjacent properties and pedestrians. Inspector to review schedule of work with the contractor during each inspection to ensure compliance.
2. No contact from contractor: If the required notification of the start of work is not received from the contractor, the inspector will visit the site every 15 business days from the permit’s date of issuance. The permit will be revoked after 45 days if there is no evidence of legitimate work started at the permitted demolition site.
3. Failure to notify Department of start: If we find the contractor working without the required notification, the inspector will issue a Stop Work Order until a hearing is held regarding the contractor’s failure and the site safety review is completed with the inspector and the contractor.
4. Complaints regarding demolition activity. The Department of L & I will investigate all complaints within a 24-48 hour period and provide a detailed report to include; the nature of the complaint, an explanation of the findings, determination of compliance, a time and date stamped photo of all site visits and inspections.
5. The Department will immediately implement a quality assurance plan, setting forth the policies and practices that ensure that all site inspections and complaints are performed timely and accurately. The procedure also establishes regular management level analysis of internal audit findings to assess the organization’s overall level of conformance, with the ultimate goal of identifying and correcting areas of nonconformance and inefficiency, and engaging staff in improving processes and procedures.
6. The Department of L&I will coordinate with the Department of Revenue to ensure that all demolition contractors and/or subcontractors provide proof of the following: proper insurance and tax clearances for all employees before any building permit is approved.”
In addition, the press release made recommendations for legislation:
- Failure to call for inspection – implement a Stop Work Order with a $1000 inspection fee which must be paid before work may continue.
- Establish a separate license category for demolition contractors and allow issuance of demolition permits only to those with this license. Establish testing and experience requirements.
- Consider imposing a code requirement for background checks and for contractors to provide random drug screening for heavy equipment operators on demolition sites as part of the site safety inspection.
- All licensed contractors will be notified that they will be required to provide proof of experience and qualification prior to obtaining a demolition permit.