How Demolitions Are Safely Conducted

As one might expect, demolitions are closely monitored events. From the use of heavy machinery and explosives to the potential for hazardous materials being exposed to the environment, demolition experts must follow many steps to insure the demolition process is performed as safely as possible. The process begins long before the demolition of buildings actually occurs. Here are some of the more common safety steps taken by demolition companies.

Pre-demolition paperwork: The demolition company will conduct a site survey. This survey will cover all of the engineering aspects of the demolition project, as well as employee and public safety and any environmental issues the project may involve. Other critical parts of the site survey include mapping out local utility locations and first aid services. All necessary permits for the demolition work will also be determined at this stage.

Preparing the demolition site: Prior to any demolition work, the site itself will be prepared. This may include notifying residences and businesses of the upcoming work, making sure all demolition equipment is present and working properly and making sure all safety precautions are in place. On the day of demolition, the closing of nearby streets is sometimes necessary to ensure worksite and public safety.

Demolition process: There are different precautions taken for the different types of demolition. For demolitions by hand, workers will consult the survey closely before beginning any dismantling to determine how best to begin the demolition process. Working platforms may be assembled to carry out the hand demolition work and temporarily support the weakened structure until it can safely be dismantled.

Demolitions requiring explosives require even more safety precautions. The engineering survey will determine what kind of           explosives and how many explosives will be needed for the project.

Only highly qualified and professionally trained individuals are allowed to handle demolition explosives. The survey will indicate where the explosives will be placed on the worksite. There may need to be some dismantling of the site by hand before explosives can safely be used.

Post-demolition:  There are several safety steps taken post-demolition. Once the site is determined to be safe for workers to enter, an inspection will be conducted. Once it is safe to do so, the removal of debris can begin. Careful removal of all explosives is of utmost importance, as is any demolition debris that could potentially be hazardous to the environment. Debris that is safe for recycling will be separated and removed from the demolition site.  Any asbestos in the demolition debris will require extra measures for proper removal and disposal.

Keep in mind that demolition companies are required to follow all city, county, state and federal ordinances regarding demolitions. Laws and requirements vary so make sure you understand the laws surrounding demolition work in your area. For residential projects, homes built before the 1970’s may contain more hazardous materials, like lead-based paints, asbestos and PCB’s than modern structures.

OSHA offers a good outline of the measures companies must make to create a safe demolition worksite.

Look for companies that are members of the National Demolition Association. Customers should verify that the chosen demolition company has a valid license for demolition work and an active insurance policy that covers the project the company is being hired to perform. Make sure to ask for references. Read the fine print of any demolition project contract before signing, especially paying attention to who is responsible for post-demolition cleanup and what the cancellation policy is in case you decide to pull out of the project. Demolition work is a major project, so take the time to do your research and find a company that you are confident will do a good job.

Michael Cornett writes for Rhino Demo, an industrial demoliton company that serves the Southeast parts of the U.S.