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Demolition work: A look at the hazards

Photo: PhilAugustavo/iStockphoto

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More dust and location concerns

Other kinds of dust can be dispersed during demolition work, especially when an entire residential structure is being taken down. Typically, crews will spray water on the structure to contain that dust. This inclusion of water may cause other issues or the need for a cleanup, Matuga cautioned.

Dust containment in especially critical when the demolition site is in a populated area. “Spraying down with water mist is really important so the dust doesn’t go to the neighbor’s yard and the neighbor’s house, or things of that nature,” Matuga said.

For demolition crews working in more populated settings, safety concerns also include moving vehicles and people.

“Working in a residential setting can sometimes be a little more of a logistically daunting task than commercial, but each job is always different in its own way,” Satterwhite said. “You may tear a house down on a 100-acre farm with nothing around or in a heavily congested neighborhood with tight streets and lots of pedestrian traffic, including children and joggers.

“You have to be just as cognizant of dust and noise in a residential neighborhood as you would in a commercial setting.”


Matuga noted that heat can be another demolition work-related issue, especially if workers are wearing respirators or protective clothing during remediation of hazardous materials.

Complicating this potential hazard further is the likelihood that air conditioning units aren’t in working order in structures that are under renovation or being demolished.

Both situations mean employers must monitor their workers for signs of heat stress and provide water, rest and shade.

Electrical hazards and utilities

An engineering survey can help reveal whether electrical or other utility hazards are present. “What about gas? What about water or sewer?” Matuga asked. “All of these other services need to be controlled, either turned off or somehow controlled. And, typically for electricity, you can flip the main breaker switch and do whatever you need to do.”

The national number to call before you dig near utility lines is 811, or you can go to for more information.

Demolition worker
Photos: PhilAugustavo/iStockphoto

Safety measures

An engineering survey or JSA can go a long way in determining what personal protective equipment is needed for workers. For example, if a ceiling or other objects are overhead, workers are required to wear hard hats.

Along with planning, employers should communicate with workers in ways such as job safety briefings. OSHA also requires training on topics such as PPE, fall protection, scaffolds, confined spaces, and welding and cutting.

“You have to train them and educate them on the hazards that they’re going to be exposed to,” Matuga said. “It starts with safety orientation for each new worker, and then making sure there’s regular training on the hazards that are there, especially any new hazards that could be present.

“There’s also making sure that the workers are supervised, and that they’re wearing the personal protective equipment that is needed, that they’re following the same practices and they’re doing the job right.”

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