Demolition: Construction in Reverse, with Additional Hazards
OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officers often face a somber task as they identify and document the violation of safety and health standards which lead up to the latest worker tragedy. Demolition worker impaled on rebar. Worker electrocuted during demolition work. Two demolition workers die of burns after flash fire at warehouse. Employee in aerial lift killed when roof collapses. However, the hazards of demolition work can be controlled and eliminated with the proper planning, the right personal protective equipment, necessary training, and compliance with OSHA standards. This Safety & Health Topics page is dedicated to the demolition workers who died on the job.
Demolition is the dismantling, razing, destroying or wrecking of any building or structure or any part thereof. Demolition work involves many of the hazards associated with construction. However, demolition involves additional hazards due to unknown factors which makes demolition work particularly dangerous. These may include:
- 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;
- Hazards created by the demolition methods used.
To combat these, everyone at a demolition worksite must be fully aware of the hazards they may encounter and the safety precautions they must take to protect themselves and their employees.
Demolition hazards are addressed in specific standards for the construction industry.
PLAN ahead to get the job done safely
Proper planning is essential to ensure a demolition operation is conducted with no accidents or injuries. This includes, but is not limited to:
- An engineering survey completed by a competent person before any demolition work takes place. This should include the condition of the structure and the possibility of an unplanned collapse.
- Locating, securing, and/or relocating any nearby utilities. For help, call 811 before you dig.
- Fire prevention and evacuation plan.
- First Aid and Emergency Medical Services.
- An assessment of health hazards completed before any demolition work takes place.
PROVIDE the right protection and equipment
The employer must determine what Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be required. In demolition operations, PPE may include:
- Eye, face, head, hand, foot protection
- Respiratory protection
- Hearing protection
- Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS)
- Other protective clothing (for example, cutting or welding operations)
It is not enough to provide PPE. Employees must be trained on the selection, use, fitting, inspection, maintenance, and storage of PPE.
TRAIN all employees about hazards and how to use the equipment safely
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Public Law 91-596, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace for employees. Employers must instruct employees how to recognize and avoid or remove hazards that may cause an injury or illness based on their assigned duties. Certain OSHA construction standards require that employees receive training in specific topics. Employers must provide this safety training in a language and vocabulary their workers can understand.
Demolition hazards are addressed in specific OSHA standards for general industry, maritime, and construction.
- OSHA Partners with City of Philadelphia to Prevent Future Demolition Tragedies
- Conn. contractor cited by US Labor Department's OSHA for wall collapse, fall hazards at construction work site. OSHA News Release, (May 6, 2014).
- Philadelphia demolition contractors cited for egregious, willful safety violations following fatal June building collapse. OSHA QuickTakes, (November 15, 2013).
- Philadelphia demolition contractor cited by OSHA following fatal building collapse. OSHA News Release, (November 14, 2013).
Share Your Story With Us
If you want to share information with OSHA about demolition safety such as a best practice, permitting requirements, or safer work method, please send your email to email@example.com.