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OSHA Cites Demolition Contractor and Equipment Operator in Deadly Center City Building Collapse

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The fatal collapse of a center city building last June continues to have a ripple effect on how some construction and demolition work is conducted in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, a report being released today by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration pins much of the responsibility on demolition contractor Griffin Campbell, whose company had been hired to demolish the four-story building in the 2100 block of Market Street, and Sean Benschop, a contractor who was operating the heavy equipment when a wall of the building fell onto the Salvation Army Thrift Store next door, killing six and injuring 19 store employees and shoppers (see previous story).

David Michaels, an US assistant secretary of labor, says Campbell and Benschop "sacrificed worker and public safety through the deliberate neglect of demolition safety fundamentals. This tragic incident," he adds, "could and should have been prevented."

OSHA found that Campbell had removed critical wall supports three days before the collapse -- an action that it calls "willful, egregious violations" of OSHA standards -- and parts of lower floors before removing upper floors, also willful violations.

The officials also cite a host of slightly less serious violations: lack of hard hats, training, fall prevention, and fall protection.

Fines announced today total $313,000 for Campbell and $84,000 for Benschop.

Requests for comment from attorneys for the two men were not immediately answered.

Benschop has been in jail since testing positive for marijuana just after the collapse.

In the report there is no mention of the building's owner, Richard Basciano, a real estate speculator who operated porn theatres in that block for decades, or the Salvation Army. In lawsuits, victims and surviving family members say Basciano and the Salvation Army are partially responsible for the collapse (see related story).

There are other reports yet to come: the Philadelphia DA's office has empaneled a grand jury to look at more criminal charges, and the city has convened a blue-ribbon panel to investigate (see related story).   The panel was convened at the request of city treasurer Nancy Winkler, whose daughter was among those killed in the collapse.

Also today, Philadelphia City Council today gave its initial approval to some of the legislation that resulted from the Market Street tragedy.  Three measures were voted out at the committee level, including one that sets licensing requirements for safety monitors at demolitions (see related stories).

Another bill calls for training of all demolition workers on OSHA-level safety standards.

More hearings are set for next week on two other bills.

KYW City Hall reporter Mike Dunn contributed to this story.

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