Why does it take a tragedy for jobsites to clean up their act? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) explicitly requires employers in the construction and demolition industries to give their employees safety and health training. These are high-hazard industries, and workers are exposed every day to hazards such as falls, being struck by heavy machinery, electrocution or exposure to harmful chemicals.
As a worksite disaster in Philadelphia last month reminds us, workers must have the safety and health training they need to not only keep themselves safe but to keep others around them safe as well.
Sean Benschop was working as a heavy equipment operator on the demolition of a downtown building. Witnesses saw Benschop knock a support beam with his backhoe, causing the outer wall of the four-story building to collapse and fall on an adjacent thrift store full of employees and customers.
Six people were killed and 13 were injured. One woman was buried in the rubble for 14 hours before rescuers could find her. Another woman killed was on her first day of work at the thrift store.
Benschop, according to police, had numerous run-ins with police dating back 20 years. Officers allege he was high on marijuana and prescription painkillers. He told police he took the painkiller Percocet because he had injured his arm in a prior accident on the job. His lawyer contends his client was qualified and able to operate the heavy machinery and that he did not violate any law.
Meanwhile, survivors are suing the demolition contractor, Griffin Campbell, and property owner, Richard Basciano. Officials immediately halted work at two other Griffin Campbell Construction sites in Philly’s Midtown Village area. Mayor Michael Nutter has vowed to reform the construction industry. He says these reforms will include random drug testing and required background checks for workers.
Was the tragedy the result of a careless and/or intoxicated equipment operator? Or was the site improperly approved for demolition? License and inspection records show the city approved the demolition in February. However, a construction worker who saw the collapse says there was no lateral bracing supporting the wall that fell. In addition, some are asking why the thrift store was open for business during a critical phase of the demolition project next door.
No one has been found guilty in a court of law, but the Philadelphia tragedy is one example of an ongoing problem in the demolition and construction industries. Construction and demolition crews cannot cut corners when it comes to safety or safety and health training. There are rules in place. Occupational safety training is mandatory, and with the option to take courses online in Spanish and English, it should be easier than ever to get OSHA-mandated construction and general industry certifications.
Whether you’re an employee or an employer, OSHAcampus.com can help you with safety and health training designed by authoritative experts. These immediate and affordable educational solutions will keep you and your workers safe and compliant on the jobsite.