Keeping Demolition Workers Safe April 28, 2022
According to the most recent workplace fatality data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 78 demolition workers died while involved in site preparation contracting in 2020. The first phase of most major construction projects is site preparation, which is a type of demolition work. It involves clearing land from trees and debris, leveling ground for building projects, and moving materials to and from a worksite. Although the BLS reports that fewer demolition workers died in 2020 than the year before, many of the hazards that lead to fatalities are entirely avoidable simply by employers putting the safety of workers first.
Why is Demolition Work so Dangerous?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that demolition workers face many of the same hazards as construction workers, like falls from heights, electrical hazards (including shock and arc flash dangers), scaffolding or ladder collapse, injury caused by repetitive motion, and hearing damage from noise exposure. However, demolition workers also face their own unique job-related hazards that result from unknown factors, such as:
- Unknown strengths or weaknesses of damaged industrial materials
- Approved or unapproved modifications that alter the structure’s original design
- Deviations from the structure’s original design
- Materials hidden within structural members
Because of the numerous hazards that demolition workers face, they are also vulnerable to sustaining caustic burns, electrocution, crushing injuries from falling debris, scaffolding, or building collapse, toxic gas and chemical exposure, traumatic brain injuries the result from a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), like hard hats, and more.
Ways Employers Can Protect Demolition Workers
One of OSHA’s most cited safety violations related to demolition standards is the failure to perform an engineering survey before initiating a job on a structure. An engineering survey is a critical step in performing a demolition job safely, since it involves determining the condition of the floors and walls, framing, as well as assessing the possibility of an unplanned collapse occurring on any portion of the structure. Per OSHA’s federal safety and health guidelines, employers are responsible for taking a variety of additional steps to safeguard demolition workers before undertaking a job, including:
- Brace or shore the walls or floors of structures that show signs of damage and that workers must enter
- Shut off or cap all electric, gas, water, steam, sewer, and other service lines outside of the building line. Notify the appropriate utility companies
- Temporarily relocate any protect any essential power, water, and other utilities
- Determine the types of hazardous chemicals, gases, explosives, and flammable materials which have been used in tanks, pipes, and other equipment on the property
- Test and purge hazardous chemicals, gases, explosives, or flammable materials
- Survey the site for asbestos or other hazardous materials
- Guard wall openings to a height of 42 inches
- Cover and secure floor openings with material able to withstand the loads that are likely to be imposed on it
- Posts signs at each level of structures, warning of the hazard of falling materials/debris
- Protect entrance to multi-story structures with sidewalk sheds or canopies for a minimum of eight feet. The canopies must be at least two feet wider than the structure’s entrance and be able to hold a minimum of 150 pounds per square foot
OSHA has several other standards in place to ensure safe demolition work. To learn more about OSHA’s standards, please refer to the agency’s following fact sheet.
Were You Injured in a Demolition Site Accident? We Can Help
Typically, when a worker gets injured on the job, he or she files a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers. While workers’ compensation is a critical lifeline for many injured workers, it is sometimes a good idea for a victim to consider filing a third-party liability claim to recover additional damages. Third-party liability claims are claims that an injured individual brings against a third party that was partially or fully at fault for the accident. For example, an employer may bring in an outside contractor for a demolition job. The contractor may create dangerous working conditions that contribute to a worker’s injuries, such as failing to conduct an engineering survey, failing to post jobsite hazards, or taking part in other negligent actions that lead to a preventable and injurious jobsite incident.
At Galfand Berger, our attorneys fight tirelessly on behalf of injured victims. In one instance, we represented a demolition worker who suffered a fractured hip when he was struck by a truck that was driving in reverse trying to haul away a dumpster. The truck driver denied striking our client, claiming that he sustained his injury when he tripped over construction debris. Our client required a hip replacement for his injury, which later became infected during his post-operative recovery. Our client spent several months in rehabilitation before he was able to return home. Our attorneys filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, and the case settled for an excess of $1,000,000 before trial. To read more about this recovery, visit here.
If you would like to learn more about filing a workers’ compensation or third-party liability claim for your work-related injury, please contact a representative at our firm online now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.