Safety measures taken by an organization to anticipate and avoid accidents tell a lot about the organization’s fundamentals. Better safety standards instill confidence for employees and business partners. Hence, organizations should develop strong practices to identify and mitigate risks and look for opportunities to optimize health and safety processes.

Companies involved in demolishing sites should take extra measures when it comes to safety. Dismantling structures entails hidden hazards such as unexpected weakness or loss of strength of materials, which can lead to accidents that cause injuries or fatalities. In addition, knowledge on the composition of these structures and the presence of regulated materials such as asbestos, PCBs or lead is vital for workers and public safety. The age of a unit and site constraints are also important factors in planning and executing demolition.

Safety of demolition work begins with safe and experienced contractors. When hiring contractors, it is important to investigate or confirm the experience they have with demolition of similar facilities. Other factors that should be considered for selecting the right contractor include:

  • Demolition workers: Screening the workers and the management team who will be part of the project is an important step. This helps identify the experience they have in demolishing different types of sites such as power plants, manufacturing facilities or commercial facilities. The vetting process presents an opportunity to ask for a replacement if a profile does not fit the requirements. Additionally, the organization’s recommendations for assigning tasks to workers (based on their specialization) can be considered by the contractor.
  • Equipment: Tools and equipment are constantly evolving to provide better safety and results. Types of equipment needed vary for different site types. Requesting the list of equipment to be utilized by the contractor helps in comprehending the types and capability of the equipment owned or used by the contractor. The usage of the latest tools and solutions that are compliant and approved by authorities will further boost an organization’s confidence and help it recognize the importance the contractor is giving to safety.
  • Training and development: Machines are operated by humans. Providing them theoretical and practical training on how to operate such systems is critical because one small mistake can lead to a major safety incident. Identifying the steps taken by contractors to train all workers will add value to the selection process. Training plays a major role in preventing accidents on demolition sites because trained professionals can identify and handle hazardous situations with confidence and authority.
  • Safety processes and best practices: Assessing a contractor’s processes and practices builds trust and provides insights into the contractor’s priorities and dedication to safety. An assessment answers a lot of questions about the contractor’s safety measures and plans, frequency of updating best practices and processes, policies for providing a dedicated on-site safety officer, and more.
  • Execution plan development: Planning for demolition activities is imperative to completing work safely. Contractors should prepare detailed execution plans that outline methods for demolition along with safety considerations. These plans are critical in submitting to the facility owner and the demolition staff so that a clear understanding of the activities to be conducted is presented.

Safety has been and always will be critical, especially while demolishing sites. By implementing rigorous evaluation practices and hiring experienced contractors, organizations can prioritize safety and save lives.


Learn more about decommissioning and demolition, associated challenges and the right methods and solutions to demolish sites.

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Don Barris III is a project manager for facility decommissioning and demolition at Burns & McDonnell. He specializes in demolition project management, contract management, employee training, client relations, construction safety and performance management.