Demolition work can often lead to tragic unintended consequences. The huge number of variables at play can transform a seemingly safe situation into a deadly hazard in mere seconds. Demolition workers must always be wary of the potential danger held within their work, and their employers must also take steps to reduce risk any way they can.
Project managers can use the following strategies to help accomplish their goals:
Recognize the Dangers
Fatalities resulting from demolition can occur from a huge range of secondary consequences that result when project planners fail to account for every variable of the demolition. Electrocutions, burns, impalements, equipment rollover and any number of other risks can happen once teardowns begin. Other effects can result when hazardous substances like asbestos, lead or gas are exposed after the demolition is underway.
Workers and project managers must be aware at all times not just of the work that they are performing, but also their surroundings and these potential hazards. They must also be trained and have the proper safety equipment to handle any possible complications thrown their way.
Plan the Project Carefully
In order to develop a safe and effective strategy for demolition while still preparing adequately for potential dangers, thorough engineering surveys have to be completed before the project begins. The engineers can evaluate the state of the structure, create a plan for safe destruction of interior, exterior or structural elements and assess all environmental health hazards related to the project.
After the survey, project planners should locate, secure, disconnect or relocate utility service lines as needed. They can also create a fire prevention and evacuation plan and develop strategies to administer first aid or evacuate personnel to emergency medical services should something go wrong.
Provide the Necessary Safety Equipment
As part of the project evaluation, employers must determine the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed during the course of their workers’ duties. This equipment can include:
- Head, eye, face, hand, foot or full body protection
- Hearing protection
- Respiratory systems
- Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS)
- Any other protective clothing needed given the project needs, such as welding protection or fireproof suits.
Employees cannot simply be handed these items, either. They must receive proper training on how to wear, fit, inspect, maintain and store their PPE so that the equipment can be relied upon job after job.
Train, Train and Train Some More
Planning and protection can save someone’s skin, but unless they have the proper training they will be placing themselves and their coworkers in danger countless times throughout the project. Each employee has to be adequately trained, and per OSH Act Public Law 91-596 every employer has a responsibility to create a safe workplace for employees.
Ensure that every employee is familiar with the basic tenets of demolition, their specific duties and how to operate their assigned equipment safely. Employees should also be trained on how to identify and remove or avoid hazards that arise during the course of their duties.
Only by taking these steps can demolition be performed safely and workers mitigate the high risk involved. Employers should see to it that they are properly insured as well with general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance to protect themselves financially from these risks while also covering employees in the event of an injury, medical emergency or even death.