10 Tips for Staying Safe on a Demolition Site

Health and safety is a top priority on all demolition sites in the UK. We are no different and have even taken it to the next level with our SiteZone Proximity Warning System which protects site workers using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

As well as using technology, there are multiple considerations that need to be made before machines and workers step onto the demolition site.

Here at Hughes and Salvidge, as well as following the laws set out for demolition safety, we also follow these 10 ways to keep everyone safe on site.

1. Be Asbestos Aware

Demolition and Refurbishment Asbestos Surveys must be carried out before any demolition work can take place, and any licenced or non-licenced asbestos found must be removed in a safe and compliant manner. 

At Hughes and Salvidge, we employ totally independent UKAS approved analysts to undertake air sampling/fibre counting and bulk sampling in full compliance with EN450001. Only once all licenced and non-licenced asbestos has been removed, the demolition phase of the project can begin. Even then, all our operatives are UKATA asbestos awareness qualified, meaning that if hidden asbestos is discovered, our staff are qualified to recognise the material.

Operations will then be brought to a halt until the licenced asbestos has been removed by the specialist contractor. Our operatives are qualified to remove non-licenced asbestos in a safe manner.

Asbestos is safely removed to prepare for a building demolition
Asbestos is safely removed prior to demolition

2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Must Be Worn

During demolition, it’s vital for all employees to wear the correct PPE.

As a minimum, 5-part PPE must be worn at all times on site by any operative, including:

    • Hard Hat

    • Safety Glasses

    • High-Visibility Vest/Jacket

    • Safety Gloves

    • Steel-Toe Capped Boots.

Our Safety Health Environment and Quality (SHEQ) Department manages the distribution of PPE to all of our operatives, ensuring we comply with British Standards (BS) and other relevant standards.

The required standards of PPE can vary, depending on the project being undertaken or a client’s specific requirements. We ensure that all our PPE satisfies each circumstance.

All of our PPE is also compliant with HSE regulations, and we supply operatives with any specialised PPE outside of the basic 5-part, for example, face masks, welding masks, fire-proof overalls, Kevlar gloves, or anything else needed to safely carry out a specific task.

The stringent management of our PPE store by our SHEQ department allows the correct PPE to be allocated to the correct project, without delay or risk to safety to any personnel.

3. Prevent Accidents with Training, Qualification and Experience

Any staff working on a demolition site must have the appropriate qualifications, training, and experience. It is vital that every employee understands what equipment should be worn and present throughout the demolition. Regular, updated health and safety training is also needed to help reduce the risk of accidents. Remember, some qualifications expire after a certain amount of time, so check regularly to ensure everyone’s training is up to date.

To ensure we complete projects safely and to the highest standards, we work to BS6187: 2011 standards and place particular emphasis on training and keeping our techniques and working practices completely up to date.

Our training and qualification system for all employees is paramount to our Health, Safety and Environmental systems and procedures. All employees have the appropriate qualifications and experience for the assigned tasks they undertake, and our site teams are closely monitored by Site Supervisors at all times.

Our Directors have a range of qualifications, including IDE Membership, NEBOSH, NVQs, CSCS and CPCS qualified. Our Contracts Managers, SHEQ Manager and Site Managers have qualifications such as CMIOSH, IOSH, NEBOSH, NVQs, CSCS, CPCS, CITB, CCNSG, and ARCA. Our Site Supervisors have qualifications including NVQs, CSCS, CPCS, CITB, CCNSG, and ARCA, and our Site and Plant Operatives have qualifications including NVQs, CSCS, CPCS, CITB, CCNSG, and ARCA.

To support this portfolio of staff and their qualifications, our SHEQ Department maintains a Training Matrix. This ensures all qualifications are in-date and that every operative is experienced in the duty they are carrying out. It also allows operatives to have a training plan to encourage development. As operatives become more experienced in the industry, qualification standards improve.

Three excavators working on a building demolition
Demolitions are completed by fully trained staff

4. Monitor Noise, Vibration and Dust

Environmental safety is also paramount on a demolition project. Noise, vibration, and dust are common by-products of demolition work, so they must be effectively monitored and managed to avoid any risk to the workforce or neighbouring properties.  

Frequent exposure to loud noise can permanently damage a person’s hearing. In addition to this, noise can also create a safety risk, making it difficult for workers to communicate effectively or preventing them from hearing warning signs.

Vibration also poses a risk. The vibrating hand tools commonly used in demolition can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). As a result, workers’ exposure to vibration must be managed and reduced as far as possible.

Regular noise and vibration monitoring are conducted throughout all our projects with reports being issued to the client’s project team. Working hours can also be adjusted to ensure avoidable ‘noisy’ activities are undertaken at times that have minimal impact on the public.

Throughout the demolition process, noise is to be kept to a minimum; this is achieved in various ways:

    • Using correct plant for specific tasks and ensuring the plant is fully maintained

    • Using ‘quietest’ method when both demolishing structures and removing hardcore and concrete, i.e. using bucket or pulveriser rather than impact breakers

    • Leaving part of the external envelope of particular buildings intact whilst removing materials.

    • Ensuring works are only carried out within agreed working hours.

We also monitor and control dust by means of damping down using temporary water supplies around the site. This supply is arranged with the local water authority for permission and metering.

During structural demolition, dust suppression is via fire hoses with operatives gaining access above the structure, where necessary, to enable water to be sprayed directly onto the workface. Dust is also controlled by a Dust Boss water curtain. The proposed system is a fully automatic, oscillating ducted fan with a high-pressure misting system that creates a Virtual Dust Barrier. This system helps significantly in minimising dust from the demolition, in both implosions and excavator processing/material removal applications, reducing the potential for health concerns and complaints.

A building demolition operating under controlled conditions
Demolition requires carefully controlled conditions

5. A Clean Site is a Safe Site

Keeping the site clean and safe throughout the demolition process is essential. Having a clean site appears as standard on most health and safety regulations and should always be implemented on demolition sites to keep workers safe.

A safe site also means ensuring that everyone has access to fresh drinking water and washing facilities, as well as hot water and a clean, safe environment for breaks.

Housekeeping is paramount to promote a safe working environment and to also ensure that the demolition arisings and other materials from the site are dealt with appropriately. A safe site compound is imperative and welfare facilities are provided for operatives to take breaks away from the operational area of the site.

When Hughes and Salvidge are Principal Contractors, we favour the use of the Oasis type of welfare unit on-site. This unit contains separate messing, toilet, office, and storage facilities. Running water and heating are also available via an independent generator. The following provisions are generally made:

    • Drinking water

    • Lavatory and washing facilities

    • Facilities to change and store clothing

    • Storeroom for PPE, etc.

    • Refuge against extremes of weather

    • Generator to provide heating and lighting

    • Hot water

    • Separate messing facility with seats and tables

    • Kettle (or urn)

    • Microwave for heating food.

At the tender stage, Management assesses the welfare requirements that will be needed for each site in relation to the number of operatives, the geographical restrictions of the site, etc.

The Site Manager/Supervisor is responsible for taking delivery and inspecting any welfare facilities and ensuring that they are maintained to a clean and hygienic condition. Should any item of equipment become unusable, or if additional consumables are needed, the Site Manager/Supervisor will report to Management who will arrange for repair or replenishment as necessary.

Safe access to the welfare facilities will be detailed within the Health and Safety Plan and will form part of the Site Induction. Site welfare facilities will also be open to inspection by the SHEQ Department when carrying out site inspections.

Within the Mess Room, there will be a project notice board. General Health and Safety information will be displayed on this board. In particular, the following items will be displayed:

    • General Site Safety Rules

    • Emergency Rules

    • Map to Local Accident and Emergency Hospital

    • Identity of First Aider on-site

    • Location of First Aid supplies

    • HSE Law Poster

    • Health and Safety Policy Statement

    • Environment Policy Statement

    • Quality Policy Statement

    • Insurance certificate.

Maintaining a clean and tidy site are key factors in the successful delivery of works on any demolition site. We segregate and process arisings on-site as we go along, rather than demolishing and cleaning up afterwards. It is the responsibility of all site employees to ensure that a clean working environment is achieved, and the Site Supervisor monitors and reports on this by completing daily sight inspections and a weekly site audit. The Site Supervisor will also appoint an operative to carry out the cleaning of the site welfare facilities daily and replenish with supplies as necessary.

Man in high-vis vest looking at demolition vehicle
Effective cleaning and housekeeping are vital for safe demolition

6. Manage Traffic Movement

To avoid putting workers at risk of being hit by vehicles turning, slewing, or reversing, effective traffic management systems are essential on-site. Wherever possible, vision aids and zero tail swing machines should be used.

Traffic Management Plans are established during the planning phase of a project and updated/amended as the works commence and progress on-site.

Segregation of pedestrians and vehicles is implemented, giving clear and unhindered pedestrian walkways and vehicle access to all required areas of the site.

Gatemen assist with flow and control of traffic on-site and a strict speed limit of 5 mph is enforced.

One-way systems are established to minimise the need for reversing and reversing cameras are on vehicles and plants to eliminate the need for operatives to be near vehicles. Furthermore, traffic movements (including deliveries) are timed to avoid rush hour traffic at both ends of the day so no queuing of construction traffic will occur.

7. Risk Assessment and Method Statements are Essential

Risk Assessments and subsequent Method Statements are fundamental elements in the safe planning, preparation and undertaking of a project.

Upon award of a contract, Hughes and Salvidge have a structured approach to ensure the provision and control of safety from project conception to completion, taking into consideration the Pre-construction Information and other relevant documents provided at the tender stage. Before commencing the works, a pre-start meeting/tour of the site will take place. 

The Site Supervisor, Contracts Manager and SHEQ Manager walk the site and list all risks that are associated with the works. These are then recorded and written up into a Risk Assessment document. Method statements are then produced based upon controlling the risks.

Weekly site visits by the Contracts Manager and SHEQ Manager also ensures that work is being carried out in accordance with the approved Method Statement. All activities undertaken by Hughes and Salvidge are following the approved programme of work, phased operations and safe demolition techniques and the activities will be planned and undertaken in line with the Risk Assessments, Method Statements, Project Health and Safety Plan and Environmental Plan.

8. Be Aware of Proximity to Plant

Demolition projects often have large plants and machines working on-site, along with on-ground operatives. This creates potential danger. It is therefore imperative that clear plans and rules are put in place before the start of works, and these are incorporated into Risk Assessments and Method Statements to ensure the on-ground personnel are never in danger from an operating piece of plant or machinery. In addition to this, Hughes and Salvidge have also taken the initiative to use a Close Proximity Warning System – called SiteZone – on their plant and machines.

All Hughes and Salvidge plant vehicles have been fitted with SiteZone which uses radio frequency identification (RFID) detection. This means that SiteZone can see around corners, through dust and smoke and in poor light conditions, giving targeted warning alarms to both drivers and workers on foot should they enter each other’s working area.

Vehicles are fitted with SiteZone base stations, while site workers have RFID transponders fitted to their hard hats or sleeve. When a site worker breaches a predefined detection zone, both the worker and driver receive a ‘proximity warning’. The RFID tag vibrates, making the site worker aware of the vehicle, while the driver is alerted by sound and flashing lights in the cab of the vehicle. This two-way alarm feature is fundamental to site safety since responsibility for avoiding accidents is shared by both parties.

Worksite at Didcot with power plant in background
Worksite for Didcot Power Station demolition

9. Maintain a Stream of Communication and Encourage Feedback

Your employees are key to understanding the risks on-site, so everyone must be involved and know what precautions are to be taken. When employees are involved in making decisions about health and safety, the workplace is safer.

Communication with a client, company management, site operatives and neighbouring residents or businesses are key to maintaining safety on-site. We ensure that all Health and Safety information is collated and passed on to a client for incorporation into the Health and Safety file. On-site, Health, Safety and Environmental information is disseminated to the site team to ensure maximum communication, education, and awareness. 

Methods include:

    • Tool Box Talks

    • Company Memos

    • Presentations

    • Seminars

    • Pre-Construction Information

    • Health & Safety Plans

    • Method Statements

    • Risk Assessments

    • COSHH Assessments

    • Permit to Work.

All site operatives and sub-contractors are issued with the Risk Assessments and Method Statements to read and understand the system and sequence of works. This also provides an opportunity for them to comment on any potential issues. Upon agreement, they sign the documents agreeing to work and comply with the Method Statement, Risk Assessments, and other associated documentation.

At Hughes and Salvidge, we listen to our operatives and site staff as they are at the forefront of our operations.  We have an ‘open door’ policy and encourage feedback and suggestions for improvements. All senior management, including Managing Director, Martyn Burnett, visit our sites regularly to ensure standards are being upheld and to speak directly to our workforce.  This hands-on approach ensures everyone understands how seriously we take all matters relating to Health and Safety and how much we value input at all levels.  We also hold regular workforce safety committee meetings and formal meetings with Site Supervisors to engage their thoughts as well.

Indoor space with plastic sheet divider walls
An area prepared for the controlled removal of waste

10. Manage Waste Disposal

Waste streams are identified as part of the risk assessment process and are a key safety measure on a demolition project. The control measures required are then selected to ensure that on-site techniques, which assist the segregation and containment of the different materials, are used. Contingency plans are also made at this stage as to what precautions should be taken to minimise the potential for harm to be caused in the event of a spillage or other form of release.

To fulfil the duty of care as a producer, Hughes and Salvidge ensures that all waste is properly identified, accurately described, and labelled before it is passed onto the waste disposal carrier. If the waste produced is of a complex nature, Hughes and Salvidge may employ specialist external resources to advise on the identification and disposal methods to be employed. If appropriate, samples of waste will be taken for laboratory chemical testing. From these results, safe disposal options can be based and evaluated.

At Hughes and Salvidge, we ensure that a waste management licence for that specific waste type covers the chosen disposal facility and that the site has sufficient capacity to receive the waste. All controlled and hazardous waste, by definition, will be handled, processed, packaged, and disposed of in line with current approved codes of practice, associated legislation, Hughes and Salvidge established procedures and client documented systems.

Safety measures provided by the Government

UK law also states ways that demolition must be carried out in a safe manner. The law discusses how demolition must be carefully planned and carried out in a way that prevents danger, by practitioners with the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience.

According to HSE, the key issues to be aware of are:

Falls from height

During the demolition process, workers can be injured by falling from edges, or through openings, fragile surfaces, and partially demolished floors. Duty holders are responsible for assessing, eliminating, and controlling the risk of falls from height.

Injury from falling materials

Injuries can also be caused by falling materials resulting from the premature or uncontrolled collapse of structures. Duty holders must take the necessary steps to protect workers and passers-by from the risks posed by falling materials.

Uncontrolled collapse

The method statement for the demolition should identify the sequence needed to prevent the accidental collapse of the structure, considering the age and type of the structure, its previous use, nearby buildings and structures, and the weight of machinery being used.

Risks from connected services

Connected services, such as gas, electricity, water, and telecommunications must be isolated or disconnected before demolition work begins. Any services that cannot be disconnected should be clearly labelled to ensure they are not disrupted.

Hazardous materials

Hazardous materials such as dust, asbestos, and respirable crystalline silica must be considered, as well as any other material or contaminations on-site that have not been cleared.


During any structural alteration or demolition, fire is a risk. The fire plan must, therefore, be kept up to date as the escape routes and fire points may change at various points during the process.

Note* – Post updated as of March 2022

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