Every day, old structures are demolished to make room for new and improved buildings, bridges, and other structures. More often than we would like, during the course of these demolitions, things do not go as planned and loss or damage to property can occur.
The exact protocol for demolishing different types of structures is somewhat of a moving target, with technology changing the dialogue of the conversation on a regular basis (more on tech and demolition here). This article will discuss demolition issues, review demolition safety, and lastly it will highlight a new demolition specification that we hope will aid in preventing future demolition accidents.
Problems with Demolition
Demolition is often not the exact science that professionals would like it to be. Too often there are unknown elements within buildings, such as post tensioned slabs or reinforced concrete slabs, that make buildings behave in hard to predict ways. Unfortunately, these unknown structural elements routinely cause accidents and unsafe working environments for demolition crews. No project manager wants to tell his crew to go back into a fully weakened and partially demolished structure to do more work because the first demolition attempt did not have the intended effect. These things happen, and these risks are part of the job, but why not avoid them if at all possible? We put a lot of work and tedious effort into making sure buildings are designed and built well. Now it’s time to apply some of that same rigor to the demolition process, and ensure we are doing everything possible to protect ourselves against expensive budget overruns, insurance claims, and most importantly human casualties.
Demolition Safety: Existing Protocols
What safeguards are currently in place to avoid accidents? The answer is, clearly not enough. OSHA does have some guidelines related to demolition, but by and large they are generic and apply to construction as well as demolition. The top 5 violations for demolition sites are listed below:
- Lack of Written Engineering Survey
- Inadequate fall protection
- Improper shoring or bracing of walls
- Insufficient inspections of stairways & ladders
- Testing & removal of hazardous materials
The OSHA rules governing demolition, as well as local ordinances governing things like noise, dust, and vibration, are a good place to start, but they do not guarantee a successful and safe demolition. Different municipalities have different laws and different contractors have different methods. In short, the demolition process is unpredictable.
In some failed demolition cases, it is determined that no rules were broken. The specifications were followed, all the proper permits were in place, and there were no OSHA violations. Yet there were still structural failures or controlled collapses that didn’t go as planned, with the worst-case scenarios, leading to injury and death. These accidents, happening under the watchful eyes of professionals, clearly point to an issue with the existing process.
As a property owner, developer, contractor, or engineer responsible for the demolition of a structure, this is not a comforting thought. At ASI, we believe the answer to this problem is a more detailed demolition specification that is included in every bid package. This specification will bring a new level of consistency, and a minimum standard for demolition design, that the industry is currently missing.
When the risks are as high as they are in demolition (loss of life and millions of dollars in damages), more precautions must be taken. In order to mitigate this problem and create a better standard moving forward, ASI has created a new demolition specification that covers the demolition process in detail, eliminating blind spots in other specifications, and providing a better guidebook for demolition professionals. We believe an adoption of this specification will lead to optimized schedules and safer demolition sites around the world.
Request Free Demolition Specification Review
If you have a demolition project and don’t know how to start or you’re just interested in learning how to make your demolition project safer, fill out the form below to request a free demolition specification with one of our demolition experts.
*For the Demolition Spec Review, we will examine your current demolition specification & add sections that may be missing or could benefit from more detail. If you do not have a current demolition specification, we can provide you with ours.