How can Workers be Kept Safe during Demolition?

One of the most dangerous stages of any construction project is demolition, when a structure is cleared to make way for the building of a new construction. Whether it is a small project or the demolition and rebuilding of an entire skyscraper, clearing out existing fixtures and building materials can involve dangerous and structurally destabilizing work. This hazardous work can involve braking down framing and supports that hold up the whole structure. It can expose workers to the risk of an accident or an exposure to toxic materials such as asbestos or silica dust that can have serious detrimental effects on their long-term health.

There are several steps demolition teams can put in place to maintain the safety of their workers, as well as others in the vicinity of the worksite. Some of these are discussed below.

Steps to Keep Demolition Workers Safe

Demolition tools. The tools that are used during demolition can range from a sledgehammer to an excavator to explosives. The job of tearing down an entire building may call for some of the more intense methods and tools. However, in all cases, choosing the right tool for the job is important. Every bit as vital is having trained professionals evaluate what tools and methods should be employed to complete the demolition project, and having the operators receive thorough training on how to use tools such as heavy machinery and detonation materials to execute the job.

Personal protective equipment. Workers on site should also be given adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe from the many hazards of the job. Every worker on the site must be provided the wearable safety equipment that will address the dangers of the threats on site. Such required PPE should include hard hats, work boots, gloves, masks, and other safety gear necessary for the job at hand, such as hearing protection in areas where loud machines are being used as well as whenever demolition requires the use of explosives.

Training. Training for demolition crews should involve educating employees about the dangers of this type of work. They should understand the structural and engineering concepts that complicate the job, as well as have an intimate knowledge of how to safely operate the machinery they must use to complete the project. Furthermore, each individual employee must be made aware of the invisible dangers of exposure to contaminants in the air on the site of a building demolition. They should be educated on the methods to avoid or safely remove such hazards.

Demolition site safety survey. Each demolition project should start with a survey of the structure to identify dangers associated with instability of the structure as well as any concerns related to exposures to dangerous building materials. Unstable structures should be reinforced with braces and other methods to prevent collapse when workers are inside the structure. The survey should produce a plan for the order of tasks to be performed, which should take place in a sequence that establishes and maintains the safety of each subsequent step. According to standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the plan should be put in writing and overseen by a trained and knowledgeable individual.

The safety survey should also include an evaluation of hazardous particulate matter that may be released into the air during demolition. When buildings are being demolished, there is a risk of exposure to dangerous particles in the air. Such dangers include those from asbestos, silica, or heavy metals such as lead. It may be necessary to perform certain tests to determine if any of these elements are present. If they are present, the project should include a plan and timeline for removing the contaminants in a safe way to provide minimal contact with workers. Other volatile materials that should be removed before work begins include chemicals, gases, and flammable or explosive materials.

Clearing the way for safe demolition. Once the plan is in place and the efforts to mitigate worksite dangers are instituted, the demolition can proceed. The most dramatic moment of a building demolition is usually the implosion that causes the entire structure to collapse. The scene is usually set off with a controlled system of detonation devices strategically placed throughout the building.

However, before that can happen, the entire structure should undergo a final sweep, in which every room, hallway, closet, and other space is given one last check to ensure that no one is inside. The sweep should also check for anything that might impede the success of the demolition.

All employees should be accounted for, and they should be a safe distance away from the structure. Importantly, part of the last-minute preparation before the demolition takes place should involve making sure that bystanders are also kept far enough away from the structure. 

Mitigating harmful noise. Constant exposure to the noise produced by power tools and heavy machinery can cause hearing issues for workers. Employees should be required to wear protective gear to mitigate their chance of developing hearing problems as a result of their work. Isolating workers when possible or rotating them to limit any one individual’s exposure can help.

Demolition explosions put workers and others at particular risk for hearing-related injury. Demolition plans can mitigate the threat to people’s hearing from these dangerous blasts by employing engineering controls, such as creating noise-blocking barriers.

Careful clean-up practices. The threat to worker safety does not end after the building crumbles. In fact, the debris left behind can involve the potential for some of the most long-lasting damage. Building materials such as concrete and drywall can contain silica, which creates a dangerous air pollutant when it is pulverized in the demolition process. Respirators should be used whenever these airborne substances are present. Engineering controls such as wet methods can reduce the amount of contaminants released into the air.

Mount Holly Workers Compensation Lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Assist Workers Injured on the Job

If you were injured on a worksite during the demolition phase of a work project, or at any point while you were performing work duties for your employer, you should be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits to pay for medical bills and other losses you suffered in your work accident. The Mount Holly Workers Compensation lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC can help you navigate the process of pursuing the employee benefits you deserve after a work accident. If you are denied coverage, having a knowledgeable lawyer on your side can make all the difference. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey; and Trevose, Pennsylvania. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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