HSE is urging demolition and construction firms to ‘double-down’ on demolition safety measures, to avoid incidents and ill health amongst their workers and the public

The warning comes as a reminder to companies that the safer they are, the more efficient they are. Good health and demolition safety management increase the likelihood of contracts coming in on time and within budget with fewer added costs, and often to a higher quality.

In the past year, HSE has dealt with prosecutions involving severe injuries and fatalities because of poorly planned demolition work.

This includes:

  • A contractor who suffered serious injuries when a single-story roof he was demolishing by hand, collapsed at a construction site in Cobham, Surrey.
  • A 64-year-old man was killed when a garage wall at a garden in Hampshire collapsed on him during demolition, after a contractor who was operating a digger failed to put an exclusion zone in place whilst carrying out the work.
  • A 21-year-old employee was killed whilst dismantling a redundant grain drying tunnel at a farm in Kent when a farming partnership failed to ensure the integrity of the structure during the dismantling process.
  • An employee sustained injuries to his shoulder, and a fractured heel and ankle when he was hit by falling debris from a garage wall in Clitheroe that was being demolished in an unsafe manner.
  • A contractor who was prosecuted for disturbing asbestos and damaging underground cables during demolition works at a site in Blackburn, causing severe disruption to services.
  • The operator of a cherry picker who sustained life-changing injuries when he became trapped during a demolition operation at a site in Greater Manchester.

HSE is reminding contractors that it is crucial to complete a survey ahead of demolition work including structural investigation and appraisal, which considers the age of the structure, type of construction, history of the building including alterations and design codes used to avoid an uncontrolled collapse.

‘Important to put the planning in place’

Head of construction at HSE, Sarah Jardine, said: “Structural instability can be a problem in buildings that are old, decayed, poorly maintained, and in newer buildings that have been badly designed and constructed or abused in use.

“Even sound structures can become unstable because of a lack of planning of construction and demolition work.”

“It is easy to get it wrong even on small, straightforward structures, which makes it even more important to put the planning in place when it comes to demolishing large, complex structures.

“Demolishing these types of structures is a particularly hazardous activity and doing it safely is highly complicated and technical, so relevant expertise is vital. These jobs require careful planning and execution by contractors who are competent in the full range of demolition techniques and have access to designers and engineers with the right knowledge, skills, and experience in this area.”

Clients, with the help of the principal designer, must provide essential pre-construction information to the relevant designers and engineers.

This should include a range of surveys and reports to check for presence of asbestos, structural stability, and the location of above and below ground live services.

‘Incidents caused by poor planning and risk management can have substantial human costs’

Jardine added: “Incidents caused by poor planning and risk management can have substantial human costs that are felt for many years by the victims and their families.

“In addition to the impact on people’s lives, incidents can also lead to substantial remediation costs, higher insurance premiums, and, if HSE investigates, court fines and prison sentences, which will inevitably impact reputations.

“As well as being morally right, it is simply common sense and good business to ensure rigorous planning, organizing, managing and monitoring of the whole project.”

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