How to keep your demolition site safe

20th December 2021

Demolition sites can be incredibly dangerous and Project Managers must take all necessary precautions to ensure that their workforce is as safe as possible.

The nature of all demolition work poses a number of health and safety issues that can prove to be extremely hazardous if not addressed. While everyone is responsible for maintaining a safe demolition site for all, it is down to site and Project Managers to ensure potential dangers are addressed and avoided.

How to create a safe demolition work environment

It is a legal requirement that all demolition, dismantling and structural alterations must be carefully planned and carried out by trained professionals to prevent accidents.

Working on a demolition site can be dangerous so safety must be taken seriously.

You can create a safe demolition work environment by taking the following steps:

Be aware of asbestos

On any demolition site, you should always be aware of asbestos and the risks that it poses. Before you start any work, arrange a Demolition and Refurbishment Asbestos Survey to safely remove licensed or non-licensed asbestos before the demolition can go ahead.

Workers putting on PPE to remove Asbestos

Training

All staff working on a demolition site must have the appropriate qualifications and training before gaining access to the site. This is a core health and safety requirement and is non-negotiable. After all, it is the responsibility of any company to protect its workforce and minimise the risk of accidents.

All training should also be kept up to date as some qualifications expire after a certain length of time. It is also necessary to ensure all training and qualifications are in line with changes to industry requirements or HSE legislation.

Personal Protective Equipment

Anyone working on a demolition site must wear the correct PPE. You should ensure that all employees are equipped with all necessary PPE, which may include:

  • Head protection
  • Eye protection
  • Hearing protection
  • High visibility hat, vest, trousers
  • Protective trousers
  • Hand protection
  • Foot protection
  • Harness lanyard

All PPE should be of high quality, fit for purpose and the correct fit. Specialist equipment should be used, where necessary, and in line with a task-specific Risk Assessment.

Safe use of vehicles on demolition sites

There are many potential causes for vehicular accidents occurring on sites, including inadequate training of drivers or signallers, unsafe loading or transportation of materials on vehicles, people being struck by either vehicles or their unsecured loads, or even vehicles striking services and obstructions.

What can you do to prevent these accidents?

  • Identify the hazards before work begins
  • Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
  • Provide a high standard of vehicle training
  • Review risk assessments regularly 
  • Create clear pedestrian routes
  • Ensure vehicles are checked regularly
  • Ensure drivers and signallers are in contact at all times
  • Ensure drivers and signallers understand the appropriate signals and site rules
  • Implement a one-way traffic flow on-site

For more information on the safe use of vehicles on demolition and construction sites, view the HSE guidance here.

Hughes and Salvidge vehicle destroying building

Local area surrounding demolition site

All demolition work has to be adequately planned to ensure a safe system of work and this also involves making sure that the area surrounding the demolition site is also safe, especially if it is outside of a school, public transport route or another public area with a high footfall.

Public safety should be a top priority and demolition activity should not put members of the public in danger.

Employer responsibilities

Maintaining a healthy and safe work environment is the responsibility of all employers and should be taken extremely seriously.

It is an employer’s responsibility to:

  • Survey the site for potential hazards
  • Ensure first aid is available on site if an accident happens
  • Provide all appropriate PPE
  • Provide a high standard of training

Employee responsibilities

It is also the responsibility of employees to ensure a safe site, and they must:

  • Wear all relevant PPE
  • Follow safety instructions and ensure site visitors also comply
  • Report any potential hazards
  • Ensure own training is complete and up to date

Safety measures in the demolition of buildings

A number of safety measures need to be taken when a building is being demolished, including ensuring you have access to the right equipment. Using the right equipment for each phase of the demolition process is vital and this should be safety checked at each stage.

Pre-demolition sweep

A pre-demolition sweep is essential to ensure that the structure is ready for demolition and that everyone and everything is out of the building.

Propping

Propping is an essential part of some demolition projects. It is a process that involves ensuring that all ceilings and walkways are properly braced to provide extra support. This is crucial when it comes to preventing accidents. All buildings and structures where propping is deemed necessary have undergone Structural Engineer inspections.

Debris removal

Hazardous waste is removed from the site to licensed facilities, as a building or structure is coming down. Other arisings from demolition works are also removed and recycled or are stockpiled on site. This depends on whether it will be used to backfill voids at the end of the project.

10 Tips for staying safe on a demolition site

For more top tips on how to stay safe on a demolition site, make sure you check out our 10 tips on staying safe on a demolition site.

Article By Nicola Wallace

Nikki has worked at Hughes and Salvidge since 2013, working on some of our biggest tenders and projects for major clients, including Ford, Ineos, Portsmouth City Council, and Shell UK.

More article by Nicola Wallace
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