New York Personal Injury Attorneys
Demolition’s Unique Safety Hazards
Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo, PC (SPBMC) has successfully represented demolitionists and other construction professionals who have been injured or killed while on-the-job. Demolition work involves many of the hazards associated with construction, from falling objects and toxic exposure to electrocution and musculoskeletal injuries. However, structures slated for demolition are often old and unstable which is why extra preparations and cautious planning is needed.
Spot Hazardous Signs
An engineering survey must be conducted before any work begins. That survey should detail the obvious and latent dangers in the structure. Then, managers and supervisors can create a demolition plan and communicate it to the on-site workers. It should expose several factors, such as:
- Changes from the structure’s design introduced during construction;
- Approved or unapproved modifications that altered the original design;
- Materials hidden within structural members, such as lead, asbestos, silica, and other chemicals or heavy metals requiring special material handling;
- Unknown strengths or weaknesses of construction materials, such as post-tensioned concrete; and
- Hazards created by the demolition methods used.
Preventing Falls and Other Injuries
Below are some OSHA-recommended tips to safeguard against falls and other common demolition injuries:
- Brace or shore up the walls and floors of structures which have been damaged and which employees must enter.
- Inspect personal protective equipment before use.
- Inspect all stairs, passageways, and ladders; illuminate all stairways.
- Contact appropriate utility companies and shut off or cap all electric, gas, water, steam, sewer, and other service lines.
- Guard wall openings to a height of 42 inches; cover and secure floor openings with a material able to withstand the loads likely to be imposed.
- Floor openings used for material disposal must not be more than 25% of the total floor area.
- All roof cornices or other ornamental stonework must be removed prior to pulling walls down.
- Employees must not be permitted to work where structural collapse hazards exist until they are corrected by shoring, bracing, or other effective means.
One of the most recent examples of a tragic demolition accident occurred in Philadelphia in 2013. In that scenario, an aging, long-vacant four-story building in the downtown area was being demolished when it collapsed onto the one-story Salvation Army Thrift Store next door. Six people were killed – four shoppers and two thrift store employees – and 14 people were injured. The collapse was traced back to the removal of critical structural supports that left a wall unsupported. Such demolition accidents are preventable. The risk of a worker or bystander being injured during demolition or a removal phase can be substantially mitigated by taking proper cautionary steps.