PPE & OHS For Demolition Workers
Demolition work is defined as any work that demolishes, deconstructs or dismantles a load bearing structure and can therefore be a dangerous profession. For this reason, the undertaking of any demolition work requires a license.
Demolition license requirements vary from state to state, but these are only issued once a strict application process is undertaken and specific eligibility criteria are met.
When talking about the safety of demolition workers, it is important to bear in mind that both human and structural factors play a part.
David Solomon, Executive Officer of Safety at Master Builders Association of NSW said: “Where human involvement is prevalent there is always an amount of discretion, judgement, coordination and skill necessary, which must be supported by experience and competency. If any of these attributes are lacking, the risk of incident, mishap or injury is increased exponentially.”
He added that “in the absence of certain skills, supporting resources such as more experienced co-workers or qualified structural engineers should be called upon to ensure safety standards are upheld”.
Solomon cited poor planning, poor communication, unrealistic demolition programs and insufficient research as the most common dangers demolition workers on the ground will face. He suggests the best way to tackle these issues is with good quality communication:
- Clear audible signals (two way radio, phone etc.)
- Clear visual signals
Additionally, workers must ensure structures have been fully cleared and dust suppression is activated for those directly in the firing line. The right combination of PPE is also essential:
- Suitable non tear clothing,
- Gloves appropriate for the task
- Goggles that have been fitted to the individual
- Chin straps on the hard hat
- Hearing protection
- Dust mask
When considering safety precautions and PPE, Solomon said that demolition workers must bear in mind the importance of adequate ventilation to protect from the toxicity of solvents, glues, primers and dust.
“Goggles, gloves, disinfectants, isolation and using the right machinery is key, but the most important factors to remember are effective communication and planning,” says David.
By law, employers must provide demo workers with adequate PPE, as well as training in the correct use of, and maintenance of the equipment. Hefty fines can be issued to employers who do not adhere to this.
Equipment must be suited to the nature of the work and any hazard associated with the work, and must fit the worker correctly. The maintenance and upkeep of the equipment is also the responsibility of the employer.
Regulations also state that the employer must provide the worker with information, training and instruction in the proper use, wearing, storage and maintenance of PPE. Employers cannot impose a levy on a worker for the provision of personal protective equipment.
In addition to legislative requirements, David suggested that the best way to ensure worker safety is with “Training, training and more training.”
He also pointed out the importance of correctly fitting PPE to individual workers, and suggested undertaking regular testing to ensure PPE fits properly and that its quality has not deteriorated over time.
For more information on PPE Standards, visit Safework Australia.