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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: June 20, 2013 02:28 PM
From: Representative William F. Keller
To: All House members
Subject: Increasing Demolitions Standards
In the very near future, I will be introducing legislation amending the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) to improve public safety and standards for commercial building demolitions. New requirements set forth by this bill would be mandatory for Philadelphia and optional for all other municipalities.

As you know, on June 5, 2013, in Center City Philadelphia, a four-story commercial building under demolition collapsed onto an adjacent one-story building, a Salvation Army store, killing 6 people. Fourteen others were injured, including one individual who was trapped under debris for more than 12 hours. Even more residents were put at serious risk when witnesses on the street and firefighters searched through wreckage for survivors.

While no formal blame has been placed, accounts of this event largely point to little public oversight and regulation of private demolition contractors as well as lack of compliance with safety and building codes by the contractor and its workers. Accordingly, my legislation seeks to raise the bar to perform demolition work by ensuring that contractors seeking to demolition permits are qualified and competent and comply with site-safety requirements for workers and the general public.

As currently written, my legislation would make several changes to the UCC to:
  • Require the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry to annually review the qualifications of local inspectors and building code officials.
  • Require site inspections before demolition permits may be issued.
  • Allow the adoption of demolition and safety standards that exceed the current UCC.
  • Require contractors seeking a demolition permit to, at least:
    • provide building plans and demolition schedules prepared by licensed architects or engineers;
    • submit site-safety plans that meet or exceed OSHA requirements;
    • maintain adequate liability insurance and post surety bonds;
    • provide notices of permit applications and demolition schedules to neighboring property owners and occupants; and
    • ensure that contractor applying for the permit will perform the work or identify subcontractors and any portion of work they may be required to complete.
  • Charge an additional fee on Philadelphia building permits to fund additional training and staffing of inspectors.
  • Allow other municipalities to opt-in to all of these provisions, except the additional permit fee.

Please also note that my legislation is intended to be a starting point to address the numerous areas of noted concern and may be improved upon through public hearing and discussion on this topic.

However, I believe this type of legislation is needed to enhance public and worker safety standards for building demolitions, and I hope that you will join me in sponsoring this important measure.

Introduced as HB1591