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Job Site Safety During Demolition Preparation Work

Every demolition project is different, will vary in size and scope, and will include many tasks that are required before starting the demolition work.

Supervisor preparing for demolition project.

Preparation is key before beginning any demolition work. It is important to plan for:

  • Methods to be used to bring the structure down
  • Equipment that will be needed for the job
  • Cave-in, fire, explosion, and collapse prevention
  • Safety and health measures required to protect workers, including PPE selection
OSHA Standard 1926.850(a) Prior to permitting employees to start demolition operations, an engineering survey shall be made, by a competent person, of the structure to determine the condition of the framing, floors, and walls, and possibility of unplanned collapse of any portion of the structure.

An engineering survey is required before the start of any demolition project, and may include information specific to:

  • Building characteristics
  • Protection requirements for adjacent structures
  • Demolition methods that will be used
  • Public protection required
  • Overhead and underground utility protection
  • Above and below ground tank protection
  • Hazardous materials compliance
  • Documentation of the existing damage to nearby structures
  • Blasting safety requirements

Select and inspect personal protective equipment (PPE) before use. In demolition operations the PPE required may include:

  • Eye, face, head, hand, and foot protection
  • Respiratory protection
  • Hearing protection
  • Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS)
  • Additional protective clothing (for other operations like welding or asbestos removal)
PPE including a safety vest, ear muffs, safety glasses, work gloves, and a hard hat.

Determine the types of hazardous chemicals, gases, explosives, and flammable materials which have been used in any pipes, tanks, or other equipment on the property, and then test and purge as necessary. Survey for asbestos, lead, or other hazardous materials.

Shut off or cap all electric, gas, water, steam, sewer, and other service lines and notify the utility companies. Temporarily relocate and protect any essential power, water, or other utilities.

OSHA Standard 1926.850(d) If it is necessary to maintain any power, water or other utilities during demolition, such lines shall be temporarily relocated, as necessary, and protected.

Cover and secure floor openings with material that is able to withstand the heavy loads that might be placed on it.

Remove all roof cornices or other ornamental stonework. Remove any glass that could pose a risk during the demolition.

When and if applicable, ensure proper lockout/tagout procedures have been followed.

Engineers at a demolition site.

Safe passage throughout the work area must be maintained for all personnel. Inspect and maintain all stairs, passageways, and ladders. Properly illuminate all stairways.

Only those stairways, passageways, and ladders, designated as means of access to the structure of a building, should be used. Other access ways must be entirely closed at all times.

OSHA Standard 1926.855(c) Safe walkways, not less than 18 inches wide, formed of planks not less than 2 inches thick if wood, or of equivalent strength if metal, shall be provided and used by workmen when necessary to enable them to reach any point without walking upon exposed beams.

Brace or shore the walls and floors of structures which have been damaged that workers must enter. No work is permitted where structural collapse hazards exist until they are corrected by shoring, bracing, or other effective means. Guard wall openings to a height of 42 inches. Post signs at each level of the structure(s) that warn of the hazard of falling materials.

Protect entrances to multi-story structures with sidewalk sheds or canopies for a minimum of 8 feet. Canopies must be at least 2 feet wider than the structure entrance and be able to hold a load of 150 lbs./sq. ft. Put up barricades to prevent unauthorized persons from entering the work area.

Excavator working at a demolition job site.

Fire or explosion can be serious risks at demolition sites and all potential sources of ignition should be identified before work begins. A fire protection program must be in place during demolition and appropriate firefighting equipment, like fire extinguishers, must be available. Ensure the Fire Department can gain access to the job site and fire hydrants, if needed.

Smoking, open flames, and any operations that can produce sparks must be restricted to limited, specific, safe areas. A fire warning system should be in place to ensure workers can quickly and safely evacuate in the event of a fire.

OSHA Standard 1926.150(a)(1) The employer shall be responsible for the development of a fire protection program to be followed throughout all phases of the demolition work.

During demolition, regular inspections must be conducted as the work progresses to detect hazards resulting from weakened or deteriorated floors, or walls, or loosened material.

Everyone working at the demolition job site must be aware of the potential hazards, the safety requirements for various work activities, and the safety precautions they can take to protect themselves and their co-workers.

Close-up view of a fire extinguisher.

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