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National Demolition Association Director Testifies at Hearing on Philadelphia Building Collapse

The June 5th Demolition Accident triggered a legislative response that some argue may not do the job of making sites safer.

Fri July 19, 2013 - National Edition
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In testimony on July 9 before the Pennsylvania House Committee on Urban Affairs concerning legislation meant to change safety requirements for city demolition projects, the executive director of the National Demolition Association supported many elements of the law but took issue with requirements on project oversight. Specifically, the bill would require all demolition plans for commercial structures in class one cities in the commonwealth to be reviewed by a licensed architect or professional engineer.

“While in no way impugning the value of these professions…they simply lack the training and education in the demolition process to oversee the work being performed by a competent demolition contractor,” said Michael R. Taylor, executive director of the NDA.

“The National Demolition Association strongly recommends the use of a professional engineer when an association member is confronted with a challenging structural issue on a project site…however, few, if any, architects or professional engineers, unless they have worked in the demolition industry, have the training or expertise to knowledgeably comment on the work plans of a demolition project.”

The hearing was precipitated by the June 5 demolition accident in Philadelphia that killed six people. The NDA was invited to provide testimony because it represents more than 800 firms involved in the approximately $5 billion U.S. demolition industry. Taylor pointed out in his testimony that according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and OSHA, the seemingly dangerous industry is in fact overwhelmingly safe, with only one workplace fatality occurring every one million man-hours.

“It seems a wise idea to the association to include a system of review of construction codes, administrators and third party agencies charged with enforcement and administration of laws,” Taylor said. He noted that under OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.850, a written engineering survey is prepared by a competent person to determine a structure’s condition and the possibility of unplanned collapse of any portion of the structure.

In the testimony, Taylor also addressed the proposed requirement for at least $1 million in liability insurance could have an economic impact on certain smaller demolition projects.

“For companies new to the demolition industry, these additional costs could have an impact on getting started in the industry,” Taylor said.

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