Demolition Health and Safety
The demolition or deconstruction of a building is among the most dangerous of activities that can take place on a construction site. The weight of all that material such as concrete, bricks, wood etc can easily crush anybody beneath causing serious injury or, more likely, instant death. This weight of material means there is often little margin for error when it comes to demolition, as one small miscalculation or mistake can result in disaster for those in the vicinity. This is not only limited to site workers directly involved in demolishing the structure, but also nearby members of the public who may be affected if, for example, the structure falls the wrong way when it is brought down using explosives.
Although the risk from falling building material or debris is one of the primary health and safety risks, it is by no means the only one. Other issues which need to be carefully considered include the potential danger to health from:
Dust:- Falling buildings create a tremendous amount of dust. This COSHH risk can cause serious respiratory problems when breathed in, and can also damage a person's eyes if the dust is particularly gritty.
Noise:- Demolitions are noisy. The noise from the collapse itself as all that material hits the ground, noise from machinery and the loud sound created if explosives are used to bring the structure down can all cause temporary or permanent damage to a person's hearing.
Machinery:- Along with the noise, the use of heavy machinery and tools also brings with it further potential dangers including the risk of fire, excessive vibration, flying particles, manual handling issues, electric shocks, cuts and dismemberment from sharp points or blades.
Hazardous Material:- Certain buildings, particularly older ones, may contain substances which have the potential to cause serious harm to health if encountered. As far as demolition is concerned, the two most likely substances which may be encountered are asbestos and lead. These are so hazardous that they have their own separate regulations and guidelines which are separate from the COSHH regulations. Demolition and construction work will disturb and break these materials, generating dust particles which are then inhaled.
This gives a brief introduction to some of the numerous potential dangers to health that are present and need to be taken into consideration when a demolition is required. Specialist health and safety training courses are available for those who are responsible for managing the demolition process, and training should be given to those working on the site, including appropriate induction training which makes them aware of the various risks they may encounter. Workers should also be told about welfare and first aid provisions on site, and their responsibilities towards the environment and minimising their environmental impact.