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Demolition risks: staying safe in the most unpredictable construction jobs

Posted on April 12th, 2018 in Demolition

Demolition involves more health and safety risks than any other area of construction.

From falls to premature structural collapse, all hazards need to be identified and addressed to keep workers and bystanders as safe as possible on your site.

Identify hazards

Demolition workers can be exposed to many hazards over the course of a project that can lead to serious accidents, injury or death if precautions are not taken. Common hazards include:

  • falling from height or between levels
  • falling objects and materials
  • breaking wire ropes and failing support structures
  • inhaling dust
  • electrocution
  • exposure to hazardous materials that can trigger chronic diseases
  • UV exposure during outdoor projects.

Assess the risk

Once possible hazards have been identified, you can determine the extent of the risk they pose.

Find out which workers may be exposed to these hazards, and how often. If you have an experienced team, they should be included in your risk assessment process, as they may have valuable insights.

You also need to learn as much about the state of the structure to be demolished as possible. Obtain plans and the latest reports on the building to find out where hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead may be located, whether any parts of the structure are unstable, and whether all utilities have already been disconnected.

Train and instruct your team

When possible, the demolition workers you hire should have prior experience of this type of work, as well as being fully qualified. They should be fully briefed and instructed in the hazards of the site and in the correct use of machinery and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Communication can be essential for preventing avoidable incidents, especially if you’re working with other teams and contractors. Everyone on your site should be assigned a clear role, from health and safety supervisors to asbestos removal specialists.

Anyone not involved in the project should be kept away from the site and clear of demolition dangers.

Prevent accidental collapse

Demolition or deconstruction should start at the top and work its way down.

If any parts of a structure are unstable, temporary braces, shoring and other support structures may need to be installed.

Before installing any equipment or removing materials, determine whether this could affect the stability of the structure.

Prevent falls

Cranes and other machinery should be used for work at height when possible.

Ensure the stability of upper floors, stairways and ladders prior to use.

Make sure all workers are supported by fall prevention devices and other appropriate PPE.

Prevent contact with hazardous materials

Older buildings and structures may contain dangerous chemical and biological agents, such as asbestos in insulation, lead in paint and pipes, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in electrical capacitors and transformers.

Wherever possible, these materials should be safely removed and properly disposed of before demolition. If this isn’t possible, the area should be secured and steps taken to prevent the spread of airborne fibres, dust and spores, such as the use of PPE and water suppression.

Get more industry insights from leading speakers

Keep up with the latest developments in civil construction, demolition and earthmoving by attending the National Construction Equipment Convention (NCEC).

This three-day event is the first of its kind in Australia, coming to Sydney Showground at the Olympic Park from 15-17 November 2018.

Visit to find out more


Safe Work Australia. Demolition.