Promoting Safe Demolition Work
April 16, 2021
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines demolition as the dismantling, razing, destroying, or wrecking of any building or structure or any part thereof. Demolition workers face many of the same hazards that general industry construction workers face, but they also come into contact with several other job-specific hazards that far too often carry dangerous consequences despite being largely preventable through effective control methods and safe work practices.
Common Demolition Hazards
According to OSHA, the hazards that demolition workers face are especially dangerous because so many of them are unknown or unidentified at the time of a job. For example, workers may come into contact with hidden materials inside structural components, such as lead, asbestos, silica, and other chemicals or heavy metals that require special material handling. Here are a few other examples of the most common and serious hazards that demolition workers come into contact with:
- Changes from the structure’s design that are introduced during construction
- Approved or unapproved modifications that altered the original structural design
- Unknown strengths or weaknesses of construction materials, like post-tensioned concrete
- Hazards created by the demolition methods used
You may have heard of OSHA’s “Fatal Four”, or the four most deadly hazards that endanger construction workers. These four hazards are falls, electrical exposure, being struck-by an object, and caught-in/between accidents. Demolition work regularly involves all four of these hazards, which are known as the leading causes of construction deaths in the United States every year.
How to Keep Demolition Workers Safe?
Every employer must provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees. To combat known demolition hazards and to reduce preventable illness and injury rates, not only do employers need to train workers on how to identify serious worksite dangers, but also on how to protect themselves from them. OSHA’s plan for reducing demolition work-related hazards is three-fold. It is as follows:
- Plan ahead to get the job done safely. Planning a job ahead of time is not an easy task, but it is, without doubt, a critical one. Planning ahead entails having a competent person complete an engineering survey (which includes assessing the condition of the structure and taking into account the possibility of an unplanned collapse) before the demolition work even begins. It also requires locating, securing, and/or relocating any nearby utilities, creating a fire prevention and evacuation plan, ensuring that First Aid and Emergency Medical Services are on-site, and conducting a comprehensive assessment of the health hazards that will be present before any work takes place.
- Provide the right protection and equipment. An employer must first determine which type(s) of personal protective equipment (PEE) will be required. Providing personal protective equipment to workers is just one step of this process. Employers also need to train their employees on how to use, properly fit, inspect, maintain, and store their PPE. Some of the most common types of personal protective equipment used in demolition operations include eye, face, head, hand, and foot protection, respiratory protection, hearing protection, personal fall arrest systems of PFAS, and other protective clothing (such as for cutting or welding operations).
- Train every employee on demolition work hazards and how to use worksite equipment in a safe manner. Per the OSH Act, or the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for providing safe workplaces. This responsibility mandates that employers instruct employees on how to recognize hazards that may cause an injury or illness as well as how to avoid or remove them. It is important to remember that employers must provide this training in a language and vocabulary that a worker can easily understand.
Third Party and Workers’ Compensation Claims: What Results have Galfand Berger Attorneys Achieved for Injured Demolition Workers?
Despite being required to follow federal guidelines and protocols in order to keep workers safe, irresponsible and profit-driver employers continue to endanger vulnerable employees each day. One of the most well-known contributing factors behind preventable demolition accidents is the failure to take proper care during the construction, renovation, or demolition of a building. Other causes include issues in the design of the building, too much weight placed on the structure, and inferior building materials, or a poor foundation.
While numerous workers are eligible to file workers’ compensation claims for injuries that result from an employer’s failure to provide a safe and healthful workplace, others may want to consider filing a third-party claim. Injured workers can file a third-party liability claim when an individual or entity that is separate from the employer is the one whose negligence causes a workplace accident. Workers who sustain injuries from falls, for example, may have a claim against a ladder or scaffold manufacturer for a product defect. In other instances, a worker may have a third-party claim against a property owner or non-employer contractor who failed to adequately maintain the job site. We settled a legal matter for a client who was injured when the scaffolding he was working on fell nearly ten feet. The client sustained a lumbar sprain, strain, and a bulging disc and also developed a fear of heights that prevented him from returning to work. Our attorneys filed a third-party suit against the scaffold manufacturer and settled the matter before trial for $445,000.
Injured workers have a right to secure just and full compensation for their preventable injuries and our team of experienced attorneys at Galfand Berger is dedicated to fighting on behalf of all injured victims. In another instance, our client suffered a fractured hip while working on a demolition site. His injury occurred when a truck backed into him while trying to haul away a dumpster. Although the driver tried to deny striking our client and instead claimed that he was injured from tripping over a piece of construction debris, our attorneys tirelessly fought on his behalf. Our client needed a hip replacement surgery and also experienced a debilitating infection that forced him to spend several months in rehabilitation before he could return home. We were able to settle the case in excess of $1,000,000 before trial.
If you were injured in a demolition worksite accident and have questions about filing a third party or workers’ compensation claim, someone at our firm can help. Please contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
Galfand Berger LLP has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading, and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.