Equipment Type

Regulatory Overreaction

The reaction of the Philadelphia mayor to last week's tragic demolition accident was swift and all too familiar: tougher regulation.
June 09, 2013

Rod Sutton is editorial director of Construction Equipment magazine. He is in charge of editorial strategy and writes a monthly column for the magazine, The Sutton Report. He has more than 30 years in construction journalism, and has been with Construction Equipment since 2001.

The news last week that a portion of a building being demolished then collapsed onto another building, burying several people, was tragic. I've seen enough demolition to understand that such a project requires planning and excellent execution. But I've also seen the viral videos of demolition gone awry.

If the excavator operator accused of manslaughter indeed was under the influence of marijuana, he must be prosecuted. Any negligence on the part of the contractor or building owner must also be addressed.

The reaction of the Philadelphia mayor, however, was swift and all too familiar: tougher regulation. According to a report by the Associated Press, Mayor Michael Nutter said, "We will not accept the status quo in the face of this tragedy."

Published reports indicate the contractor has had legal and financial problems, and the operator has a record of substance abuse. Before the City of Philadelphia adds another layer of regulation on an industry that has far more excellent contractors than not, it should examine the enforcement of existing regulations. If laws are not being enforced, fix it. If the city lacks staff to visit sites, hire some. If corruption allows unsafe contractors, operators or conditions, eliminate the corruption.

Do not automatically jump on an entire industry because of a single incident. The situation requires thoughtful analysis because more regulation isn't always the most effective response.

Related: Site inspector commits suicide.

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