US Dept of Labor

Occupational Safety & Health AdministrationWe Can Help

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.
  • 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.

Employer Responsibilities

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Public Law 91-596, each employer is responsible for the safety and health of its workers and for providing a safe and healthful workplace for its workers.

OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers. The OSHA at a Glance (PDF*) publication provides information on the strategies and programs OSHA uses to promote worker safety and health. For additional information on Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Help for Employers, Workers' page and Publications.

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.


*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

All other documents, that are not PDF materials or formatted for the web, are available as Microsoft Office® formats and videos and are noted accordingly. If additional assistance is needed with reading, reviewing or accessing these documents or any figures and illustrations, please also contact OSHA's Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020.

**eBooks - EPUB is the most common format for e-Books. If you use a Sony Reader, a Nook, or an iPad you can download the EPUB file format. If you use a Kindle, you can download the MOBI file format.

Back to Top

Thank You for Visiting Our Website

You are exiting the Department of Labor's Web server.

The Department of Labor does not endorse, takes no responsibility for, and exercises no control over the linked organization or its views, or contents, nor does it vouch for the accuracy or accessibility of the information contained on the destination server. The Department of Labor also cannot authorize the use of copyrighted materials contained in linked Web sites. Users must request such authorization from the sponsor of the linked Web site. Thank you for visiting our site. Please click the button below to continue.

Close