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Why demolition work is dangerous work

While virtually all construction-related work is dangerous, certain projects pose additional and unique safety hazards of which employees must be made aware and trained to avoid. Among some of the most dangerous construction projects are those that involve the demolition of buildings.

When it comes to demolition work, there are often many unknowns related to a building’s structural integrity and the existence of hazardous materials like asbestos and silica. Additionally, construction equipment like cranes and wrecking balls that are used in demolition projects can pose additional hazards to workers on the ground who may be hit by falling objects or debris.

Due to the unique safety issues facing workers who are involved in demolition projects, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides specific guidelines which construction employers and managers must follow. These guidelines relate to sufficient project planning, the communication of known and possible hazards and the use of safety equipment.

Prior to the start of any demolition job, construction employers are required to complete an engineering survey to determine the condition and integrity of the building and the surrounding land and to ensure that all utility lines have been identified and, if necessary, relocated. Additionally, an assessment of known or possible health hazards and emergency preparedness and response plans should also be completed.

Workers’ safety equipment needs may be based on information discovered during the demolition planning phase. In addition to the use of basic eye, head, ear, hand and foot protective equipment; additional equipment may be necessary if workers will be working from heights or coming into contact with certain dangerous chemicals or materials.

In addition to planning a demolition project and providing workers with the appropriate safety gear, construction employers must also ensure that they communicate information related to any and all known and possible dangers. Taking steps to inform and educate workers up front and on an ongoing basis can go a long way towards preventing accidents and injuries.

Source: OSHA.gov, “Demolition: Construction in Reverse, with Additional Hazards,” May 2, 2016

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