OSHA Technical Manual (OTM)
Section V: Chapter 1



Table of Contents:

  1. Preparatory Operations
  2. Special Structures Demolition
  3. Safe Blasting Procedures
  4. Bibliography

I. Preparatory Operations

Before the start of every demolition job, the demolition contractor should take a number of steps to safeguard the health and safety of workers at the job site. These preparatory operations involve the overall planning of the demolition job, including the methods to be used to bring the structure down, the equipment necessary to do the job, and the measures to be taken to perform the work safely. Planning for a demolition job is as important as actually doing the work. Therefore, all planning work should be performed by a competent person experienced in all phases of the demolition work to be performed.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in its ANSI A10.6-1983 - Safety Requirements For Demolition Operations states:

"No employee shall be permitted in any area that can be adversely affected when demolition operations are being performed. Only those employees necessary for the performance of the operations shall be permitted in these areas."

A. Engineering Survey

  1. Prior to starting all demolition operations, OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926.850(a) requires that an engineering survey of the structure must be conducted by a competent person. The purpose of this survey is to determine the condition of the framing, floors, and walls so that measures can be taken, if necessary, to prevent the premature collapse of any portion of the structure. When indicated as advisable, any adjacent structure(s) or improvements should also be similarly checked. The demolition contractor must maintain a written copy of this survey. Photographing existing damage in neighboring structures is also advisable.
  2. The engineering survey provides the demolition contractor with the opportunity to evaluate the job in its entirety. The contractor should plan for the wrecking of the structure, the equipment to do the work, manpower requirements, and the protection of the public. The safety of all workers on the job site should be a prime consideration. During the preparation of the engineering survey, the contractor should plan for potential hazards such as fires, cave-ins, and injuries.
  3. If the structure to be demolished has been damaged by fire, flood, explosion, or some other cause, appropriate measures, including bracing and shoring of walls and floors, shall be taken to protect workers and any adjacent structures. It shall also be determined if any type of hazardous chemicals, gases, explosives, flammable material, or similar dangerous substances have been used or stored on the site. If the nature of a substance cannot be easily determined, samples should be taken and analyzed by a qualified person prior to demolition.
  4. During the planning stage of the job, all safety equipment needs should be determined. The required number and type of respirators, lifelines, warning signs, safety nets, special face and eye protection, hearing protection, and other worker protection devices outlined in this manual should be determined during the preparation of the engineering survey. A comprehensive plan is necessary for any confined space entry.

B. Utility Location

  1. One of the most important elements of the pre-job planning is the location of all utility services. All electric, gas, water, steam, sewer, and other services lines should be shut off, capped, or otherwise controlled, at or outside the building before demolition work is started. In each case, any utility company that is involved should be notified in advance, and its approval or services, if necessary, shall be obtained.
  2. If it is necessary to maintain any power, water, or other utilities during demolition, such lines shall be temporarily relocated as necessary and/or protected. The location of all overhead power sources should also be determined, as they can prove especially hazardous during any machine demolition. All workers should be informed of the location of any existing or relocated utility service.

C. Medical Services and First Aid

  1. Prior to starting work, provisions should be made for prompt medical attention in case of serious injury. The nearest hospital, infirmary, clinic, or physician shall be located as part of the engineering survey. The job supervisor should be provided with instructions for the most direct route to these facilities. Proper equipment for prompt transportation of an injured worker, as well as a communication system to contact any necessary ambulance service, must be available at the job site. The telephone numbers of the hospitals, physicians, or ambulances shall be conspicuously posted.
  2. In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, hospital, or physician that is reasonably accessible in terms of time and distance to the work site, a person who has a valid certificate in first aid training from the U.S. Bureau of Mines, the American Red Cross, or equivalent training should be available at the work site to render first aid.
  3. A properly stocked first aid kit as determined by an occupational physician, must be available at the job site. The first aid kit should contain approved supplies in a weatherproof container with individual sealed packages for each type of item. It should also include rubber gloves to prevent the transfer of infectious diseases. Provisions should also be made to provide for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes should any person be working around corrosive materials. Eye flushing must be done with water containing no additives. The contents of the kit shall be checked before being sent out on each job and at least weekly to ensure the expended items are replaced.
  4. Police and Fire Contact. The telephone numbers of the local police, ambulance, and fire departments should be available at each job site. This information can prove useful to the job supervisor in the event of any traffic problems, such as the movement of equipment to the job, uncontrolled fires, or other police/fire matters. The police number may also be used to report any vandalism, unlawful entry to the job site, or accidents requiring police assistance.

D. Fire Prevention and Protection

  1. A "fire plan" should be set up prior to beginning a demolition job. This plan should outline the assignments of key personnel in the event of a fire and provide an evacuation plan for workers on the site. Common sense should be the general rule in all fire prevention planning, as follows:
    • All potential sources of ignition should be evaluated and the necessary corrective measures taken.
    • Electrical wiring and equipment for providing light, heat, or power should be installed by a competent person and inspected regularly.
    • Equipment powered by an internal combustion engine should be located so that the exhausts discharge well away from combustible materials and away from workers.
    • When the exhausts are piped outside the building, a clearance of at least six inches should be maintained between such piping and combustible material.
    • All internal combustion equipment should be shut down prior to refueling. Fuel for this equipment should be stored in a safe location.
    • Sufficient firefighting equipment should be located near any flammable or combustible liquid storage area.
    • Only approved containers and portable tanks should be used for the storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids.
  2. Heating devices should be situated so that they are not likely to overturn and shall be installed in accordance with their listing, including clearance to combustible material or equipment. Temporary heating equipment, when utilized, should be maintained by competent personnel.
  3. Smoking should be prohibited at or in the vicinity of hazardous operations or materials. Where smoking is permitted, safe receptacles shall be provided for smoking materials.
  4. Roadways between and around combustible storage piles should be at least 15 feet wide and maintained free from accumulation of rubbish, equipment, or other materials. When storing debris or combustible material inside a structure, such storage shall not obstruct or adversely affect the means of exit.
  5. A suitable location at the job site should be designated and provided with plans, emergency information, and equipment, as needed. Access for heavy fire-fighting equipment should be provided on the immediate job site at the start of the job and maintained until the job is completed.
  6. Free access from the street to fire hydrants and to outside connections for standpipes, sprinklers, or other fire extinguishing equipment, whether permanent or temporary, should be provided and maintained at all times, as follows:
    • Pedestrian walkways should not be so constructed as to impede access to hydrants.
    • No material or construction should interfere with access to hydrants, Siamese connections, or fire-extinguishing equipment.
  7. A temporary or permanent water supply of volume, duration, and pressure sufficient to operate the fire-fighting equipment properly should be made available. Standpipes with outlets should be provided on large multi story buildings to provide for fire protection on upper levels. If the water pressure is insufficient, a pump should also be provided.
  8. An ample number of fully charged portable fire extinguishers should be provided throughout the operation. All motor-driven mobile equipment should be equipped with an approved fire extinguisher.
  9. An alarm system, e.g., telephone system, siren, two-way radio, etc., shall be established in such a way that employees on the site and the local fire department can be alerted in case of an emergency. The alarm code and reporting instructions shall be conspicuously posted and the alarm system should be serviceable at the job site during the demolition. Fire cutoffs shall be retained in the buildings undergoing alterations or demolition until operations necessitate their removal.
II. Special Structures Demolition

A. Safe Work Practices When Demolishing a Chimney, Stack, Silo, or Cooling Tower

  1. Inspection and Planning. When preparing to demolish any chimney, stack, silo, or cooling tower, the first step must be a careful, detailed inspection of the structure by an experienced person. If possible, architectural/engineering drawings should be consulted. Particular attention should be paid to the condition of the chimney or stack. Workers should be on the lookout for any structural defects such as weak or acid-laden mortar joints, and any cracks or openings. The interior brickwork in some sections of industrial chimney shafts can be extremely weak. If stack has been banded with steel straps, these bands shall be removed only as the work progresses from the top down. Sectioning of the chimney by water, etc. should be considered.
  2. Safe Work Practice
    1. When hand demolition is required, it should be carried out from a working platform.
      • Experienced personnel must install a self-supporting tubular scaffold, suspended platform, or knee-braced scaffolding around the chimney. Particular attention should be paid to the design, support, and tie-in (braces) of the scaffold.
      • A competent person should be present at all times during the erection of the scaffold.
      • It is essential that there be adequate working clearance between the chimney and the work platform.
      • Access to the top of the scaffold should be provided by means of portable walkways.
      • The platforms should be decked solid and the area from the work platform to the wall should be bridged with a minimum of two-inch thick lumber.
      • A back rail 42 inches above the platform, with a midrail covered with canvas or mesh, should be installed around the perimeter of the platform to prevent injury to workers below. Debris netting may be installed below the platform.
      • Excess canvas or plywood attachments can form a wind-sail that could collapse the scaffold.
      • When working on the work platform, all personnel should wear hard hats, long-sleeve shirts, eye and face protection, such as goggles and face shields, respirators, and safety belts, as required.
      • Care should be taken to assign the proper number of workers to the task. Too many people on a small work platform can lead to accidents.
    2. An alternative to the erection of a self-supporting tubular steel scaffold is to "climb" the structure with a creeping bracket scaffold. Careful inspection of the masonry and a decision as to the safety of this alternative must be made by a competent person. It is essential that the masonry of the chimney be in good enough condition to support the bracket scaffold.
    3. The area around the chimney should be roped off or barricaded and secured with appropriate warning signs posted. No unauthorized entry should be permitted to this area. It is also good practice to keep a worker, i.e., a supervisor, operating engineer, another worker, or a "safety person," on the ground with a form of communication to the workers above.
    4. Special attention should be paid to weather conditions when working on a chimney. No work should be done during inclement weather such as during lightning or high wind situations. The work site should be wetted down, as needed, to control dust.
  3. Debris Clearance. If debris is dropped inside the shaft, it can be removed through an opening in the chimney at grade level.
    • The opening at grade must be kept relatively small in order not to weaken the structure. If a larger opening is desired, a professional engineer should be consulted.
    • When removing debris by hand, an overhead canopy of adequate strength should be provided. If machines are used for removal of debris, proper overhead protection for the operator should be used.
    • Excessive debris should not be allowed to accumulate inside or outside the shaft of the chimney as the excess weight of the debris can impose pressure on the wall of the structure and might cause the shaft to collapse.
    • The foreman should determine when debris is to be removed, halt all demolition during debris removal, and make sure the area is clear of cleanup workers before continuing demolition.
  4. Demolition by Deliberate Collapse
    1. Another method of demolishing a chimney or stack is by deliberate collapse. Deliberate collapse requires extensive planning and experienced personnel, and should be used only when conditions are favorable. There must be a clear space for the fall of the structure of at least 45 degrees on each side of the intended fall line and 1½ times the total height of the chimney. Considerable vibration may be set up when the chimney falls, so there should be no sewers or underground services on the line of the fall. Lookouts must be posted on the site and warning signals must be arranged. The public and other workers at the job site must be kept well back from the fall area.
    2. The use of explosives is one way of setting off deliberate collapse. This type of demolition should be undertaken only by qualified persons. The entire work area shall be cleared of nonessential personnel before any explosives are placed. Though the use of explosives is a convenient method of bringing down a chimney or stack, there is a considerable amount of vibration produced, and caution should be taken if there is any likelihood of damage.

B. Demolition of Prestressed Concrete Structures

  1. The different forms of construction used in a number of more or less conventional structures built during the last few decades will give rise to a variety of problems when the time comes for them to be demolished. Prestressed concrete structures fall in this general category. The most important aspect of demolishing a prestressed concrete structure takes place during the engineering survey. During the survey, a qualified person should determine if the structure to be demolished contains any prestressed members.
  2. It is the responsibility of the demolition contractor to inform all workers on the demolition job site of the presence of prestressed concrete members within the structure. They should also instruct them in the safe work practice which must be followed to safely perform the demolition. Workers should be informed of the hazards of deviating from the prescribed procedures and the importance of following their supervisor's instruction.
  3. Pretensioned members usually do not have any end anchors, the wires being embedded or bonded within the length of the member. Simple Pretensioned beams and slabs of spans up to about 7 meters (23 feet) can be demolished in a manner similar to ordinary reinforced concrete. Pretensioned beams and slabs may be lifted and lowered to the ground as complete units after the removal of any composite concrete covering to tops and ends of the units. To facilitate breaking up, the members should be turned on their sides. Lifting from the structure should generally be done from points near the ends of the units or from lifting point positions. Reuse of lifting eyes, if in good condition, is recommended whenever possible. When units are too large to be removed, consideration should be given to temporary supporting arrangements.

    Figure V:1-1. Categories of Prestressed Construction
    There are four main categories of prestressed members. The category or categories should be determined before attempting demolition, bearing in mind that any prestressed structure may contain elements of more than one category.
    Category 1 Members are prestressed before the application of the superimposed loads, and all cables or tendons are fully bonded in the concrete or grouted within ducts.
    Category 2 Like Category 1, but the tendons are left ungrouted. This type of construction can sometimes be recognized from the access points that may have been provided for inspection of the cables and anchors. More recently, unbonded tendons have been used in the construction of beams, slabs, and other members; these tendons are protected by grease and surrounded by plastic sheathing, instead of the usual metal duct.
    Category 3 Members are prestressed progressively as building construction proceeds and the dead load increases, using bonded tendons as in Category 1.
    Category 4 Like Category 3, but using unbonded tendons as in Category 2.
    Examples of construction using members of Categories 3 or 4 are relatively rare. However, they may be found, for example in the podium of a tall building or some types of bridges. They require particular care in demolition.

C. Precast Units Stressed Separately from the Main Frames of the Structure, With End Anchors and Grouted and Ungrouted Ducts

Before breaking up, units of this type should be lowered to the ground, if possible. It is advisable to seek the counsel of a professional engineer before carrying out this work, especially where there are ungrouted tendons. In general, this is true because grouting is not always 100% efficient. After lowering the units can be turned on their side with the ends up on blocks after any composite concrete is removed. This may suffice to break the unit and release the prestress; if not, a sand bag screen, timbers, or a blast mat as a screen should be erected around the ends and demolition commenced, taking care to clear the area of any personnel. It should be borne in mind that the end blocks may be heavily reinforced and difficult to break up.

D. Monolithic Structures

The advice of the professional engineer experienced in prestressed work should be sought before any attempt is made to expose the tendons or anchorages of structures in which two or more members have been stressed together. It will usually be necessary for temporary supports to be provided so that the tendons and the anchorage can be cautiously exposed. In these circumstances it is essential that indiscriminate attempts to expose and destress the tendons and anchorages not be made.

E. Progressively Prestressed Structures

In the case of progressively prestressed structures, it is essential to obtain the advice of a professional engineer, and to demolish the structure in strict accordance with the engineer's method of demolition. The stored energy in this type of structure is large. In some cases, the inherent properties of the stressed section may delay failure for some time, but the presence of these large prestressing forces may cause sudden and complete collapse with little warning.

F. Safe Work Practices When Working in Confined Spaces

  1. Demolition contractors often come in contact with confined spaces when demolishing structure at industrial sites. These confined spaces can be generally categorized in two major groups: those with open tops and a depth that restricts the natural movement of air, and enclosed spaces with very limited openings for entry. Examples of these spaces include storage tanks, vessels, degreasers, pits vaults, casing, and silos.
  2. The hazards encountered when entering and working in confined spaces are capable of causing bodily injury, illness, and death. Accidents occur among workers because of failure to recognize that a confined space is a potential hazard. It should therefore be considered that the most unfavorable situation exists in every case and that the danger of explosion, poisoning, and asphyxiation will be present at the onset of entry.
III. Safe Blasting Procedures

A. General Safe Work Practices

  1. Blasting Survey and Site Preparation
    1. Prior to the blasting of any structure or portion thereof, a complete written survey must be made by a qualified person of all adjacent improvements and underground utilities. When there is a possibility of excessive vibration due to blasting operations, seismic or vibration tests should be taken to determine proper safety limits to prevent damage to adjacent or nearby buildings, utilities, or other property.
    2. The preparation of a structure for demolition by explosives may require the removal of structural columns, beams or other building components. This work should be directed by a structural engineer or a competent person qualified to direct the removal of these structural elements. Extreme caution must be taken during this preparatory work to prevent the weakening and premature collapse of the structure.
    3. The use of explosives to demolish smokestacks, silos, cooling towers, or similar structures should be permitted only if there is a minimum of 90 of open space extended for at least 150% of the height of the structure or if the explosives specialist can demonstrate consistent previous performance with tighter constraints at the site.
  2. Fire Precautions
    1. The presence of fire near explosives presents a severe danger. Every effort should be made to ensure that fires or sparks do not occur near explosive materials. Smoking, matches, firearms, open flame lamps, and other fires, flame, or heat-producing devices must be prohibited in or near explosive magazines or in areas where explosives are being handled, transported, or used. In fact, persons working near explosives should not even carry matches, lighters, or other sources of sparks or flame. Open fires or flames should be prohibited within 100 feet of any explosive materials. In the event of a fire which is in imminent danger of contact with explosives, all employees must be removed to a safe area.
    2. Electrical detonators can be inadvertently triggered by stray RF (radio frequency) signals from two-way radios. RF signal sources should be restricted from or near to the demolition site, if electrical detonators are used.
  3. Personnel Selection
    1. A blaster is a competent person who uses explosives. A blaster must be qualified by reason of training, knowledge, or experience in the field of transporting, storing, handling, and using explosives. In addition, the blaster should have a working knowledge of state and local regulations which pertain to explosives. Training courses are often available from manufacturers of explosives and blasting safety manuals are offered by the Institute of Makers of Explosives (IME) as well as other organizations.
    2. Blasters shall be required to furnish satisfactory evidence of competency in handling explosives and in safely performing the type of blasting required. A competent person should always be in charge of explosives and should be held responsible for enforcing all recommended safety precautions in connection with them.

B. Transportation of Explosives

  1. Vehicle Safety
    1. Vehicles used for transporting explosives shall be strong enough to carry the load without difficulty, and shall be in good mechanical condition. All vehicles used for the transportation of explosives shall have tight floors, and any exposed spark-producing metal on the inside of the body shall be covered with wood or some other nonsparking material. Vehicles or conveyances transporting explosives shall only be driven by, and shall be under the supervision of, a licensed driver familiar with the local, state, and Federal regulations governing the transportation of explosives. No passengers should be allowed in any vehicle transporting explosives.
    2. Explosives, blasting agents, and blasting supplies shall not be transported with other materials or cargoes. Blasting caps shall not be transported in the same vehicle with other explosives. If an open-bodied truck is used, the entire load should be completely covered with a fire and water-resistant tarpaulin to protect it from the elements. Vehicles carrying explosives should not be loaded beyond the manufacturer's safe capacity rating, and in no case should the explosives be piled higher than the closed sides and ends of the body.
    3. Every motor vehicle or conveyance used for transporting explosives shall be marked or placarded with warning signs required by OSHA and the DOT. Each vehicle used for transportation of explosives shall be equipped minimally with at least a ten-pound rated, serviceable ABC fire extinguisher. All drivers should be trained in the use of the extinguishers on their vehicle.
    4. In transporting explosives, congested traffic and high density population areas should be avoided, where possible, and no unnecessary stops should be made. Vehicles carrying explosives, blasting agents, or blasting supplies shall not be taken inside a garage or shop for repairs or servicing. No motor vehicle transporting explosives shall be left unattended.

C. Storage of Explosives

  1. Inventory Handling and Safe Handling
    1. All explosives must be accounted for at all times and all not being used must be kept in a locked magazine. A complete detailed inventory of all explosives received and placed in, removed from, and returned to the magazine should be maintained at all times. Appropriate authorities must be notified of any loss, theft, or unauthorized entry into a magazine.
    2. Manufacturers' instructions for the safe handling and storage of explosives are ordinarily enclosed in each case of explosives. The specifics of storage and handling are best referred to these instructions and the aforementioned IME manuals. They should be carefully followed. Packages of explosives should not be handled roughly. Sparking metal tools should not be used to open wooden cases. Metallic slitters may be used for opening fiberboard cases, provided the metallic slitter does not come in contact with the metallic fasteners of the case.
    3. The oldest stock should always be used first to minimize the chance of deterioration from long storage. Loose explosives or broken, defective, or leaking packages can be hazardous and should be segregated and properly disposed of in accordance with the specific instructions of the manufacturer. If the explosives are in good condition it may be advisable to repack them. In this case, the explosives supplier should be contacted. Explosives cases should not be opened or explosives packed or repacked while in a magazine.
  2. Storage Conditions
    1. Providing a dry, well-ventilated place for the storage of explosives is one of the most important and effective safety measures. Exposure to weather damages most kinds of explosives, especially dynamite and caps. Every precaution should be taken to keep them dry and relatively cool. Dampness or excess humidity may be the cause of misfires resulting in injury or loss of life. Explosives should be stored in properly constructed fire and bullet-resistant structures, located according to the IME American Table of Distances and kept locked at all times except when opened for use by an authorized person. Explosives should not be left, kept, or stored where children, unauthorized persons, or animals have access to them, nor should they be stored in or near a residence.
    2. Detonators should be stored in a separate magazine located according to the IME American Table of Distances. DETONATORS SHOULD NEVER BE STORED IN THE SAME MAGAZINE WITH ANY OTHER KIND OF EXPLOSIVES.
    3. Ideally, arrangements should be made whereby the supplier delivers the explosives to the job site in quantities which will be used up during the work day. An alternative would be for the supplier to return to pick up unused quantities of explosives. If it is necessary for the contractor to store his explosives, he should be familiar with all local requirements for such storage.

D. Proper Use of Explosives

  1. Blasting operations shall be conducted between sunup and sundown, whenever possible. Adequate signs should be sounded to alert to the hazard presented by blasting. Blasting mats or other containment should be used where there is danger of rocks or other debris being thrown into the air or where there are buildings or transportation systems nearby. Care should be taken to make sure mats and other protection do not disturb the connections to electrical blasting caps.
  2. Radio, television, and radar transmitters create fields of electrical energy that can, under exceptional circumstances, detonate electric blasting caps. Certain precautions must be taken to prevent accidental discharge of electric blasting caps from current induced by radar, radio transmitters, lightning, adjacent power lines, dust storms, or other sources of extraneous or static electricity. These precautions shall include:
    • Ensuring that mobile radio transmitters on the job site that are less than 100 feet away from electric blasting caps, in other than original containers, shall be de-energized and effectively locked.
    • The prominent display of adequate signs, warning against the use of mobile radio transmitters, on all roads within 1,000 feet of the blasting operations.
    • Maintaining the minimum distances recommended by the IME between the nearest transmitter and electric blasting caps.
    • The suspension of all blasting operations and removal of persons from the blasting area during the approach and progress of an electric storm.
    • After loading is completed, there should be as little delay as possible before firing. Each blast should be fired under the direct supervision of the blaster, who should inspect all connections before firing and who should personally see that all persons are in the clear before giving the order to fire. Standard signals, which indicate that a blast is about to be fired and a later all-clear signal shall have been adopted. It is important that everyone working in the area be familiar with these signals and that they be strictly obeyed.
  3. Procedures After Blasting
    1. Inspection After the Blast. Immediately after the blast has been fired, the firing line shall be disconnected from the blasting machine and short-circuited. Where power switches are used, they shall be locked open or in the off position. Sufficient time shall be allowed for dust, smoke, and fumes to leave the blasted area before returning to the spot. An inspection of the area and the surrounding rubble shall be made by the blaster to determine if all charges have been exploded before employees are allowed to return to the operation. All wires should be traced and the search for unexploded cartridges made by the blaster.
    2. Disposal of Explosives
      1. Explosives, blasting agents, and blasting supplies that are obviously deteriorated or damaged should not be used, they should be properly disposed of. Explosives distributors will usually take back old stock. Local fire marshals or representatives of the United States Bureau of Mines may also arrange for its disposal. Under no circumstances should any explosives be abandoned.
      2. Wood, paper, fiber, or other materials that have contained high explosives should not be used again for any purpose, but should be destroyed by burning. These materials should not be burned in a stove, fireplace, or other confined space. Rather, they should be burned at an isolated outdoor location, at a safe distance from thoroughfares, magazines, and other structures. It is important to check that the containers are entirely empty before burning. During burning, the area should be adequately protected from intruders and all persons kept at least 100 feet from the fire.
IV. Bibliography

Malmberg, K.B. 1975. EPA Demolition and Renovation Inspection Procedures. U.S.E.P.A.: Washington, D.C.

National Association of Demolition Contractors (NADC). 1981. Demolition Safety Manual. NADC: Hillside, IL.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA Safety and Health Standards, Construction, (29 CFR 1926). 1989. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington DC.