The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) describes demolition as “construction in reverse, with additional hazards.” There are many ways in which workers can get hurt at a demolition site; and the slightest lapse in safety measures can result in tragedy. It is for these very reasons that OSHA regularly reviews how demolition workers are trained and what safety measures must be taken to ensure that worksites are reasonably safe.
OSHA recently updated its demolition work website with revised training documents, news releases and suggestions. The updated site also points out some of the many reasons why demolition work, or the demolition phase of a construction project, is often more dangerous than other construction work:
- Modifications of the structure or site from the original design: If changes to a structure or site undergoing demolition were not approved and documented, it could make the demolition unpredictable and perilous.
- Dangerous materials: Many older buildings have hidden, hazardous materials such as lead, silica and asbestos. Care must be taken to ensure that workers are not exposed to these materials without proper protection.
- Unknown weaknesses of the construction materials: For example, in order to safely demolish post-tensioned concrete, the workers will need knowledge of the erection procedure and a set of the as-built record drawings. In addition, structures undergoing demolition are often older, and therefore the materials from which they were built may have become weakened over time; increasing risk.
OSHA attempts to reduce the number of accidents that occur on demolition sites by citing companies which put workers in harm’s way. Between 2009 and 2013, the OSHA issued nearly 1,000 citations for violations of demolition standards. The most common citation resulted from failures to conduct engineering surveys prior to demolition. These citations, however, are not a large enough deterrent to prevent all fatal demolition accidents.
For example, on June 20, 2014, a construction worker was killed in New Jersey when the last standing wall of a Blockbuster Video building collapsed on top of him. Earlier in the year, a 25-year-old worker was killed in Chicago by falling concrete. In June of 2013, a four-story building in Philadelphia, undergoing demolition collapsed killing six people and injuring 14. These types of incidents are often preventable.
If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a demolition accident, the experienced New Jersey construction accident lawyers at Blume Forte can help you better understand your legal rights and options. If you were injured through no fault of your own at a construction site in New Jersey, contact us at (973) 635-5400 for a no-cost evaluation of your potential claim.