OSHA: Falling Hazards During Demolition

The construction industry is a very critical industry when it comes to safety of the workers. And when it comes to demolition, there are many unseen and surprise elements that are hard to interpret. Demolition work sites contains numerous hazards that can jeopardize the safety of the workers. While many of them are clearly visible, there are hazards which requires a keen eye and experience to locate them. Sometimes there are workplaces that may appear quite strong and safe but they may give up unexpectedly. Hence, demolition sites poses a lot of hazardous workplace situations that has to be dealt with great care.

Risk and causes for falling during demolition
While discussing about the hazards associated with demolition work, the most frequent and common hazard present in the workplace is the hazard of falling. There are innumerable ways this hazard can happen. Most of the times, it happens unprecedentedly. The most effective measure to counter such hazards is the art of self evaluation and judgment. This comes after enough experience in field and training. Hence an employer must always provide training to his workers regarding safety practices.

There are many things that may lead to a fall when working in a demolition site. It can be a weak harness, undue loads on the surface, presence of paints, unseen obstructions in the way, presence of slippery material that reduces friction between the surface and the point of contact. Some other times, some moving machinery or objects may be responsible for pushing you when you are not aware of them. The unknown strength and weakness of the structures in demolition site is a reason why workers can not predict the hazards. Most of the time they look strong but collapses with little force and weights.

OSHA measures to prevent falls
OSHA provides some general guidelines to prevent the falling hazards in construction site. The guidelines are as follows:

  • The walls and the floors that are in poor condition and lacks support though they appear healthy must be braced or shored up if it requires workers to enter the place for some work.
  • Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be selected before entering the work place and the PPE should be checked properly before using it. A worker should wear the PPE that fits him well.
  • The work site and the structures like passageways, stairs and ladders must be inspected carefully before entering. Proper illumination should be provided at the demolition site.
  • All services like electricity, gas, water, steam, sewers etc should be shut down and the concerned authorities should be notified about it.
  • Guard wall openings up to a height of 42 inches should be covered with appropriate material that can with sustain the load to be put.
  • The floor openings that are created for the disposal of the material should not be more than 25% of the total floor space.
  • When demolition material has to be dropped in the debris containers or ground, closed chutes with gates have to be used.
  • The demolition of the floors and walls should always start from the top and end as one comes downwards.
  • Any supporting structures supporting a floor should not be removed until all the floors above that floor are removed.
  • Any ornamental roof stone work or cornices should be removed before bringing the roof down.
  • If at any place, structural collapse hazard exists, the workers should not be permitted to enter the area until the structures are properly braced, shored or any other effective measure is put in place.

The list is not exhaustive and a lot depends on the presence of mind of the worker and initiatives of the employer to ensure that perfect safety at work is maintained.