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Demolition Work Can Be Hazardous to Construction Employees’ Health

In the middle of a hectic morning, a contractor learns there is a serious leak in a solar panel installation. There’s no way around it, and numerous rooms have to be gutted.

The dreaded demolition begins. The cost to the project budget and schedule is painfully evident, but there’s another cost to demo work that’s less obvious—jobsite safety. When rushed and frustrated workers have to perform a demolition, which often means dismantling, razing or wrecking an installation, unexpected dangers can be disguised as irritating obstructions.

In fact, demolition work is so hazardous that OSHA devoted an entire subpart of its Construction Standards to it. The agency also dedicated its Safety and Health Topics page to the workers who died while performing some type of demolition work. OSHA’s documentation of these tragic deaths sadly reads like this:

“Demolition worker impaled on rebar.”

“Two demolition workers die of burns after flash fire at warehouse.”

“Worker electrocuted during demolition work.”

Not surprisingly, demolition work involves most, and in some cases, all of OSHA’s “Fatal Four,” which includes falls, struck by object, electrocutions and caught-in/between accidents. The Fatal Four accounted for more than 60 percent of construction worker deaths in 2015.

OSHA’s Demolition Safety Tips offers specific steps take to help guard against accidents during demo work. To better ensure that these safety tips are implemented, take a look within the company to help achieve a zero-incident jobsite.

Start at the top

The more direct participation from the people at the top, the higher the chances of reducing accidents. The idea behind this approach is that when senior leadership directly communicates safety expectations to all employees, it establishes personal accountability throughout the company. Workers are also empowered to be a part of the safety process and look out for each other.

Site safety committee

Field staff are the company’s eyes and ears. They most often are the people who have intimate knowledge of current and future conditions around the jobsite. That valuable insight can help superintendents, foremen or safety managers head off potential safety risks, correct any hazards and even help form better and more effective safety policies.

While collaboration is vital for helping get the information needed, the site safety committee approach also empowers and encourages workers to provide helpful solutions and speak up in an industry that’s historically been resistant to reporting safety issues.

New hire safety orientation

The type of safety education and length of time provided for new-hire orientation can have a dramatic effect on the number of safety incidents. According to an ABC 2017 Safety Performance Report, companies that incorporated an in-depth indoctrination of new hires into the safety culture and processes had a 50 percent lower incident rate than businesses that provided only basic safety and health compliance topics.

Time spent on the training also made a huge impact. Companies that held new-hire orientation safety sessions of more than three hours compared to those who spent 30 minutes on safety issues, found their Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) improved by more than 90 percent.

The new-hire orientation is where companies can begin to establish a safety culture. More importantly, safety becomes a fundamental part of a project’s overall planning and execution process.

Document it

There are a lot of ways to approach the challenge of heading off potential safety issues. At the top of the list is sticking to the basics: stay proactive and prepared with documentation.

Using software to document and track vital safety information can save time. It can also help identify previous injuries and accident trends. Once risks are identified and understood, a company can either eliminate or correct them, or establish safer processes to manage them. This type of data could be especially useful when establishing new safety practices and even help identify the less obvious hazards.

The construction industry has begun to shift from a reactive to proactive stance when it comes to safety performance. Still, with three construction-related fatalities happening every day, there still remains room for improvement. Encouraging and supporting teams to do their best work not only leads to quality work, but a safer jobsite.

One Reply
  1. I think that it is amazing that you have a committee for site safety and I think that every construction crew should have someone in charge of safety. With that being said, I absolutely love how you mentioned that correcting any hazards from ever happening in the first place is a more effective strategy. Thank you for helping me understand how to remain safe while working hard!

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