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Staying safe on New York City demolition projects

New Yorkers are used to seeing construction going on in all five boroughs of the city. One of the most dangerous aspects of construction is actually the demolition process. Electrocutions, impalements, building collapses and fires all are hazards that workers face when involved in the demolition of a structure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that these hazards can be greatly reduced and even eliminated with planning, training, use of proper personal protective gear and by workers and companies complying with the standards set forth by OSHA.

Demolition involves the destruction, dismantling, wrecking and razing of any structure or building, in whole or in part. Many of the same hazards inherent in the building industry are also present in demolition. Additional factors that can make this type of work even more dangerous include:

-- Approved and unapproved alterations to the original design

-- Modifications from the building design that were implemented during its construction

-- The strengths and/or weaknesses of materials used in construction, like post-tensioned concrete

-- Construction materials that require special handling that might not be immediately apparent, like asbestos, lead, chemicals, silica and heavy metals

-- Demolition hazards from explosives

In order to combat on-the-job demolition accidental injuries and deaths, each employee at the site must be aware of the potential hazards and know which precautions to take to protect themselves and others.

Before beginning any type of demolition job, an engineering survey should be done to examine for any structural defects or weaknesses. Utilities should be mapped out, secured and relocated if necessary. In the event of an emergency, each demolition site should have an evacuation and fire prevention plan in place, as well as quick access to emergency medical services and first aid.

Employers should train their demolition workers on the proper use, fit, maintenance, storage and inspection of personal protective equipment. Most demolition ops require protection for workers' heads, faces, eyes, feet and hands, as well as respirators, hearing protection and special arrest systems to prevent falls. Additional protection may be required for welding and cutting. These PPEs should be provided to all workers.

Those injured in demolition operations might have a cause of action to seek financial compensation.

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "Demolition: Construction in Reverse, with Additional Hazards," accessed March. 27, 2015

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