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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.

Hazards
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.

Standards

Demolition hazards are addressed in specific OSHA standards for General Industry, Shipyard Employment, and Construction.

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OSHA Resources

Provides links and references to additional resources related to demolition.

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Additional Resources

Provides links and references to additional resources related to demolition.

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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 oshademolition@dol.gov.

Workers' Rights

Workers have the right to:

  • Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
  • Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
  • Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.

For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.

How to Contact OSHA

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.

large building being demolished

 

large building being demolished
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