After the building collapse that resulted in a major incident at Didcot A Power station on Tuesday, February 23rd we take a look at site safety and how important it is to properly and professionally plan demolition works.
The Didcot incident occurred as the site was being prepared for demolition. HSE guidelines suggest that when planning for demolition it is critical for the client to provide the contractor with any relevant information concerning ‘the building’s structure, including stability and structural form and any significant design assumptions, suggested work methods and sequences’. The commercial client is also required to provide this information by law.
It’s not always easy to get hold of this information, especially for older buildings. However, without it the contractor cannot be expected to be able to plan adequately enough to carry out their work.
The requirements for demolition work, as outlined by HSE are:
- Structural survey and assessment to be carried out
- Temporary supports to be decided upon that will prevent structural collapse
- Agree demolition or dismantling methods in the form of a safe system of work
- Consult with building control departments
Being under pressure to win a job or to get a job done, however large or small, doesn’t mean that cutting corners is the answer. Time needs to be set aside to go through the necessary procedures, work to industry guidelines, test assumptions and consult with experts, such as structural engineers.
Under no circumstances whatsoever should you go ahead until all stakeholders are comfortable with the plans and have signed off to industry standards and within the requirements of the law.
Demolition is high-risk work and needs to be carried out by contractors that are qualified and competent in the field. As such it is good practice to ask for references for similar jobs that the contractor has carried out previously and follow them up.
Staff need proper briefings and site workers must be adequately trained and supervised for the duration of the job. Check whether the contractor has a safety advisor or consultant and how they intend to involve them as they carry out the work.
It’s not just the building to be demolished that needs consideration, nearby buildings should also be taken into account. Public right of ways and access roads must be assessed and a traffic management system put in place to ensure that access won’t blocked and there are adequate emergency exits.
Unsafe structures, including temporary support mechanisms, debris and dust all have the potential to cause injury or harm. Workers on site can be put at great personal risk, as can the public and whether they live in the area or are passing through, they have a right to safety.
The BBC reported that in the Didcot incident 50 people were being treated at the scene for dust inhalation and local residents were being urged to remain indoors with their doors and windows closed, such was the reach of the post-collapse dust cloud.
Where people can be kept away from the work, use machines and protect those in machine cabs from falling debris and dust.
It is very good practice to put exclusion zones in place. If it isn’t necessary for staff to get close to the demolition site then keep them away thus reducing exposure.
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