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Complaints of shoddy work, unsafe conditions reported before deadly Philly building collapse

Poor demolition work reportedly went uninspected for more than three weeks before the deadly collapse of a building in Philadelphia, raising questions about the city’s regulatory process.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Mayor Michael Nutter and Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams said Thursday that the city had granted a demolition permit for the project at 22nd and Market streets without any inquiry into the contractor's qualifications for demolition work. The city does not require demolition contractors to establish their qualifications.

Six people were killed and 14 others were injured on Wednesday when a four-story brick wall fell onto an adjoining single-story Salvation Army thrift shop.

The Griffin Campbell Construction Co., licensed for the first time in January, ignored basic industry standards, set forth by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), requiring lateral bracing for exterior walls and gradual, floor-by-floor removal of upper stories, the newspaper reports.

An although the city began fielding resident complaints about the Center City project as early as May 7, city inspectors reported no problems at a May 14 visit and did not follow up. Williams told reporters Thursday that the city typically does not inspect demolition work in progress, waiting until projects are completed before surveying the sites for rubble removal, grading, and elimination of any holes or other hazards.

Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said the city relied on OSHA to look into safety issues at active demolition sites.

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