Collapsed Building in Philly Caused By Worker with a Criminal Record
June 12, 2013
Based on the photo above, it’s apparent that this was an accident. And while accidents happen, they can also be prevented. In the background screening industry, we’ve often witnessed that the lack of a criminal background check eventually leads to trouble for employers, whether it’s on a small or large scale.
Last Wednesday, Sean Benschop was operating a backhoe for demolition contractor, Griffin Campbell Construction in Philadelphia, removing materials from the fourth floor of a building. So how could this lead to the entire building collapsing? The best description came from a worker across the street, Dan Gillis,
“The guy on the crane, you could see him grab a piece of steel pulling on it. The wall had no bracing, no blocking, nothing. It was just kind of 30 to 40 feet in the air. They started pulling on the steel and the wall was swaying back and forth. Eventually it just went over.”
According to NBC10, the doctor who examined Benschop after the collapse said the amount of marijuana in his blood rendered him unfit to properly and safely perform job related duties. It’s possible that Benschop could have performed the job correctly if he had not been under the influence of marijuana. However, because he was under the influence when this happened, it’s important to consider how knowing his criminal history could have prevented this incident. Not only does Benschop’s criminal record include 9 arrests but he was charged guilty 3 times for possession of controlled substances. Had this information been known, hopefully Benschop would not have been hired in a position working with heavy machinery in the first place.
There’s no question that someone should have done a criminal background check and substance abuse test on Benschop, but the company that contracted him, Griffin Campbell Construction, should have been examined more closely as well. The company owner, Griffin Campbell, pled guilty to theft and insurance fraud in 2009 and owes thousands in unpaid city, state and federal business taxes. Yikes. If this information was known, would his company have been eligible for hire in the first place?
A couple years ago, the city of Philadelphia enacted “ban the box” for both public and private employers. However, just because an employer cannot ask on the application if someone has been convicted, that does not mean that a background check should not be done before the person is hired.
What should have been done and what were some warning signs in this situation?
- A criminal record background check and substance abuse test should have been completed for Sean Benschop previous to hire.
- Before Griffin Campbell Construction was hired, a thorough check should have also been done on the company.
- Construction workers and everyday citizens called Griffin Campbell Construction’s demolition practices at the site into question prior to and following the collapse.
- According to NBC10, “Stephen Field told the City of Philadelphia’s Philly311 customer service center about a lack of safety gear being used by workers as they hacked away at the brick building. He also voiced his concern that pedestrians could be hit by falling debris or that a complete collapse could happen.”
- It was clear that the demolition taking place was being done incorrectly according to at least one construction worker-so why wasn’t there someone supervising Benschop to prevent the accident?
While there are situations in which not doing an employment background check may only cause minor consequences, there are others, like this one, which can have devastating results. Currently, Benschop has been charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person, causing a catastrophe and risking a catastrophe.