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What Are Safety Hazards for Demolition Workers?

June 20, 2022

While it might be fascinating to watch a large building being demolished, the workers on these job sites put themselves at considerable risk. They work at heights, in high temperatures, lift heavy equipment, and can be struck by falling debris. In 2020, 78 workers lost their lives in demolition accidents, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Watchdog agencies quickly point out the most common hazards and what should be done to make these worksites safer.

Some of the most common hazards on demolition sites are scaffolding and ladders. Workers climb to great heights and can fall when slipping or when the demolition shakes the ground.

Demolition tools and debris can also fail and hit workers before, during, and after the explosions. If a worker gets hit in the eye, they could end up with vision loss or permanent blindness.

Demolitions can also release dangerous materials, like asbestos and silica dust, that can be inhaled by workers.

Heavy equipment and power tools can also cause electrocution, and the considerable amount of noise from demolition equipment and jackhammers can lead to hearing loss.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists the different materials that cause debris on construction and demolition sites:

  • Salvaged building parts, like plumbing fixtures, windows, and doors.
  • Rocks, earth, trees, and stumps.
  • Concrete.
  • Brick.
  • Metal.
  • Wood.
  • Glass.
  • Gypsum.
  • Asphalt.
  • Plastics.

The debris can seriously injure a worker during and after demolition.

The OSHA also explains some hazards on these sites are unique to demolition. One is changes to the structure’s design when it was built or renovated. If these were not approved or not appropriately tracked, these unknowns could affect the safety of the demolition and the workers.

There are often hidden materials in the building, like asbestos, silica, lead, and other hazards. These need special handling, and if workers are unaware of their existence, they could be exposed.

Demolition workers might also be unaware of structural weaknesses in buildings. If the demolition causes excessive vibration or dust, that could injure workers.

The Fatal Four Hazards that put construction workers in harm’s way are falls, electrocution, struck-by accidents, and caught-in/between accidents. All of these accidents can happen on demolition sites.

How Can Injuries Be Avoided on Demolition Sites?

Everyone who works on demolition sites is responsible for their own safety. Personal protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats, safety goggles, respirators, and steel-toed work boots should be worn when needed, and some of these are provided by employers. Employers should enforce the wearing and use of all this gear, and workers who choose not to are putting themselves at risk.

The OSHA sets regulations for demolition work. Workers should be trained and have experience in the safe use of PPE. PPE should also be certified for demolition work, which applies to protective gear for respiration, the face, eyes, and ears. Training must also be in a language best understood by the employees.

Before the demolition starts, all areas of the structures should be examined for materials and hazards. There should also be a monitor for the site perimeter to prevent unauthorized people from getting into the area and ensure everyone is out before the work begins. If a worker needs to be inside during the demolition, that immediate area must be braced for extra support to prevent falling debris.

There should be barricades around the areas where debris will be placed, protective canopies for workers at entry and exit points, and curbs around any floor openings where machines will be operated. Regular, frequent job site inspections are necessary.

These safety procedures should be planned ahead of time because they are time-consuming and can be expensive, but the benefits outweigh the costs. A worker must complete a thorough survey well before the demolition begins, including assessing the structure’s condition and the chances for a collapse. These professionals should also create evacuation and fire prevention plans and ensure that first aid and emergency services are available onsite at all times.

Are There Regulations for Demolition Sites?

Precautions should be taken on demolition sites to protect the workers and anyone else in the area. Utility lines need to be relocated or shut off, with notifications to anyone they service. Sidewalk sheds may be required for pedestrians as well. If the structure was already damaged by flood, fire, or something else, it must be braced accordingly. Demolitions of exterior walls and floors should also be done from the top down.

State and local laws can also come into play. Employers also need insurance coverage, and demolition permits may be necessary unless the municipality does not require them.

Demolitions are necessary, but cutting corners happens more than it should, leading to severe injuries. The people watching these events can also get injured if they are too close, which can be hazardous. If you want to watch a demolition, it is best to watch it from far away, where there is no risk of getting hit by debris.

What Should I Do After a Demolition Accident?

If you have workplace injuries because of a demolition accident, report what happened to your employer and seek immediate medical treatment. The incident should be documented, and you should have access to that paperwork. Waiting too long to be evaluated by a physician is not recommended because symptoms can take time to present. An insurance company could delay or deny a Workers’ Compensation claim for this reason, stating the injury was not severe enough to warrant immediate care.

Once a claim is carried out, the worker will not be able to sue their employer for damages. Some workers can file a third-party claim since there are other entities involved that could contribute to an accident. For example, if a worker is operating a defective forklift that flips over, there is a chance that the manufacturer could be held liable. These situations can be challenging for injured workers, especially when they have medical bills and cannot work.

Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Can Help You if You Were Injured on a Demolition Site While Working

Demolition sites are among the most dangerous workplaces in the U.S. If you need help with your Workers’ Compensation claim, reach out to one of our knowledgeable Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyers at DiTomaso Law. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 856-414-0010 or contact us online today. We are located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.

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