Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had to have their Compliance Safety and Health Officers review and document various safety and health violations which caused a worker tragedy. OSHA saw various gruesome worker injuries and deaths in construction recently, including a demolition worker being impaled on a rebar, a worker being electrocuted during demolition work, two demolition worker deaths after a warehouse fire, and another employee death when the roof collapsed.
The OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officers maintain that the risks associated with demolition work can be reduced and eliminated entirely with proper planning, correct personal protection equipment, training, and compliance with OSHA standards.
According to OSHA, demolition is “the dismantling, razing, destroying, or wrecking of any building or structure or any part thereof.” While construction is already one of the most dangerous industries,demolition involves many of the risks associated with construction as well as additional, unpredictable factors which make work more dangerous.
Factors may include:
- Changes in the design of the structure introduced during construction
- Modifications altering the original design, that may or may not have been approved
- Hidden materials within structures, such as lead, asbestos, silica, and other hazardous materials requiring special handling
- Unknown strengths or weaknesses of construction materials such as post-tensioned concrete
- Dangerous situations created by various demolition methods used
To ensure the highest level of safety possible, everyone present at a demolition worksite should be fully aware and educated on the hazards associated with demolition work.
The first step to preventing accidents in demolition work is to plan ahead.
Planning ahead may include:
- Having a competent person complete an engineering survey before any demolition work occurs. The survey should cover the condition of the structure, and the possibility of an unplanned collapse.
- Securing, locating, or relocating any nearby utilities
- Creating a fire prevention and evacuation plan
- Having First Aid and Emergency Medical Services on hand
- Completing an assessment of health hazards before any demolition work takes place
The next step to preventing injuries and accidents in demolition work is to provide the right protection and equipment. The employer should determine what Personal protective Equipment, or PPE is necessary. It should also be noted that employers should not only provide PPE, but also train employees on selection, use, fitting, inspection, and storage of the PPE.
This equipment may include:
- Protection for the eyes, face, head, and feet
- Respiratory protection
- Hearing protection
- Personal Fall Arrest Systems
- Other protective clothing
The last step for demolition safety is totrain all employees about the hazards and safety tips for demolition work. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Public Law 91-596, employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace for employees. This means that employers are responsible for teaching employees how to identify and remove safety hazards, and that employees receive specific training in and language and vocabulary that they are capable of understanding.