Cooperation of city office, federal agency helps keep construction workers safer in Philly

 When scaffold frames are interconnected, failure of one frame can cause the whole system to collapse. (Image courtesy of OSHA)

When scaffold frames are interconnected, failure of one frame can cause the whole system to collapse. (Image courtesy of OSHA)

In the wake of last summer’s deadly building collapse in Philadelphia, the city has kept a keener focus on safety at construction sites around town.

And it’s paying off.

Since October, inspectors with the city’s department of Licenses and Inspections and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have removed roughly 150 construction workers from “imminently dangerous” working conditions.

That’s a 20 percent increase over the same period last year.

“Our goal is to make sure that people go home the same way they showed up in the morning — 10 toes and 10 fingers. And if that’s what we’ve done … I think we’re doing our job,” said Nicholas DeJesse, acting director of OSHA’s Philadelphia office.

A stronger bond between L&I and the OSHA is driving the uptick.

Officials say an improved – and more formalized – referral system has helped both agencies keep better track of what hazards are popping up and which companies are regularly violating safety standards.

Better training for L&I employees and an increase in residential construction sites are also part of the picture.

Referrals among the agencies involve a host of hazards, including:

 an employee who is exposed to a fall hazard greater than 20 feet;
 an individual working in an excavation deeper than 5 feet without a protective system;
 and employees working within 10 feet of high-power lines.

“If an event occurs, it normally results in either serious injury or death,” said DeJesse.

The majority of referrals since October are tied to job sites where workers weren’t being property protected from falls.

Residents are encouraged to call 1-800-321-OSHA if they spot anything that’s potentially problematic.

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the building collapse at 22nd and Market streets in Center City Philadelphia.

Six were killed and 14 were injured.

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