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DEMOLITION HAZARDS (Safety Topic for July 12, 1999)

Demolition work can be very hazardous. As we discuss some of the hazards today, it's very important to pay attention - whether the job is large or small. If you're only tearing out a wall, you probably won't be using explosives like they do on high-rises, but many of the dangers of demolition exist regardless of the scale of the project.

There is a great deal of preparation that must be done before the real demolition work begins. Most of this preparation is done by your employer. All of the utilities have to be shut off and/or disconnected. Depending on the job, temporary services may have to be installed. If the structure could contain lead paint or asbestos, special precautions must be taken; these situations often require specially trained subcontractors. Of course, fences, barricades, guardrails, and warning signs must be erected to protect both us and the public.

Personal protective equipment is, as always, a must. Wear your hard hat, safety glasses, and ear plugs. Dust is also an important consideration in demolition work. A simple dust mask may not be adequate. Check with your supervisor to see if you need a special mask or respirator to protect you. Sharp and jagged edges abound during demolition work. Paying attention to your surroundings and wearing gloves and long sleeves can protect you from lots of small cuts and scrapes.

You must always be aware of the structural integrity of the building. Two potential problem areas are floor loads and bearing or supporting structures. Failing debris, especially large portions, of masonry walls or chimneys, can fall right through flooring. Worse yet, the sudden load could cause the entire floor system to collapse. Bearing walls and columns must be left intact, until the loads they support have been removed or supported by some other structure. The accidental removal of bearing structures has caused enormous property damage and has even taken lives - be careful!

Demolition work can be more complicated than construction work; surprises can lurk under each floor and behind every wall. Even if you have all of the original plans for the structure, they may not be completely accurate. Consider your actions carefully. Thinking before you act is very important on small jobs where the utilities to the building may still be connected, and only your work area has been isolated. Take an extra moment to check those electric wires before you pull them out of the wall: someone could have run a separate circuit. Do the job the right way - the safe way! 

SAFETY REMINDER Always be mindful of work being performed on higher levels. Failing debris can be a real killer.

 

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