From 2009 to 2013, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration issued nearly 1,000 citations for violations of their construction demolition standards and regulations. As recently as 2014, a Connecticut-based contractor faced more than $190,000 fines for two willful and 12 serious violations for exposing workers to potentially fatal crushing injuries and other hazards during demolition. To combat accidents like these, this article will review some of the hazards you may encounter as well as the safety precautions you should take to protect yourself and your employees. Should you need any further assistance associated with demolition safety compliance, reach out to an Alabama OSHA lawyer.
Related: Construction and Demolition Wastes
Hazards Associated With Demolition
Demolition, as defined by OSHA, is the “dismantling, razing, destroying or wrecking of any building or structure or any part thereof.” As such, demolition involves many of the regular hazards associated with other construction processes as well as additional hazards due to unknown factors. The hazards unique to demolition include the following:
- Unknown strengths or weaknesses of construction materials
- Materials hidden with structures
- Modifications that alter the original design of the structure
- Changes from the design of the structure introduced during the construction process
- Other hazards created by the demolition method used, such as noise and vibration.
By far, the most prevalent of these unique hazards is the exposure to hazardous substances via materials hidden within the structure, such as asbestos, silica, and lead. Along with exposure to hazardous air contaminants, some of the most common accidents are electrical shock, being struck by falling structures, and falls from elevated surfaces. Unsecured objects like pieces of the structure and glass have also been known to fall on workers below.
Safety Precautions That Can Be Taken to Reduce These Hazards
For employers looking to mitigate these hazards and reduce the risk for serious injury on their jobsites, planning goes a long way. For example, prior to performing any work on the structure, an engineering survey should be conducted by a trained professional to ascertain the condition of the structure and estimate the possibility of an unplanned structure collapse. As the failure to locate utilities can easily lead to electrical shock, all utility services should be located, shut off, capped, or otherwise controlled at or outside the building before demolition work has begun. In addition to establishing a fire prevention and evaluation plan and ensuring emergency and first aid services are in place, you should also complete an assessment of all health hazards. Such an assessment involves examining the condition of tanks and equipment to reduce or eliminate exposure to hazardous substances.
Once those tasks have been accomplished, other safety precautions include making sure that every employee is properly trained and given the right equipment, bracing or shoring up the damaged walls and floors that employees must enter, and using enclosed chutes to transport demolition materials to the ground or into debris containers. There shouldn’t be a single employee on your jobsite who is not capable of recognizing and avoiding demolition hazards. For more information on how you can remain OSHA compliant during your demolition project, consult an OSHA attorney with Cotney Construction Law.