Over the past couple of years, demolition accidents have been on the rise. The uptick started in the summer of 2013, when a building undergoing demolition in Philadelphia collapsed, killing six and injuring 14. After that, a worker on a shopping mall project was struck and killed by pieces of falling concrete. This past summer, a worker was killed when a wall collapsed on top of him, trapping him.
The incidents have become prevalent enough that OSHA has updated their demolition safety information. How up to date are your company’s demolition safety procedures? It could be time for a refresher course.
Demolition is particularly dangerous because it’s performing hazardous construction work, but in reverse. Not only can you not totally control where material will come to rest once it falls to the ground, there’s simply no way of knowing if you’re going to find unpleasant surprises, such as asbestos or other material that needs special handling. You also may not be able to determine if there are structural deficits that could cause the structure to collapse or fall.
Here are some procedures you should look for in your company’s safety program. If any of these steps are missing from your demolition safety procedures, the program should be updated to include them.
1. Check the survey
Your company’s assigned competent person will complete an engineering survey prior to beginning work. In tasks that include demolition, the competent person will evaluate the condition of the structure and assess the possibility of a collapse. Become familiar with the results of the survey so that, when you’re working in an area that needs extra precautions, you’ll know to take them.
2. Wear your PPE
Demolition work is louder than most, so you’ll need hearing protection. Even if a wall doesn’t fall on you, building material such as chunks of concrete might, so wear your hard hat and goggles, as well as the appropriate foot protection. With respect to noxious fumes, better safe than sorry – so respiratory protection is key. If you’re working at height, fall protection is a must in case the floor beneath you is unstable.
3. Work top down
It may seem like common sense, but with multiple workers on a busy jobsite, it can be difficult to know what everyone is doing. When you’re removing walls and floors, always start at the top of the structure and work down, and do not allow walls that would exceed the safe capacity of the floor to fall onto the floors.
4. Get out of the way
If the demolition is mechanical, such as with a ball, demolition bucket or shears, leave the area so as not to expose yourself to falling or flying debris.