As one of the top demolition contractors Nottingham has to offer, ProDEM are always dedicated to making sure that all demolition projects are carried out safely and efficiently.
Last month we looked at risk assessment and the issues to consider before work begins. We continue our 3 part article about demolition and dismantling: prevention and control measures with part 2, to bring to light all the hazardous agents that you can find around any demolition site.
We will take a look at what they are, where they can be found, their dangers, and how to mitigate their threat.
Depending on the structure being demolished, workers may be exposed to a number of dangerous agents present throughout different areas of the site. Your risk assessment should identify the agents present, giving you time to plan for safe disposal, or how to prep the working area properly so that workers don’t suffer harm from exposure.
Asbestos was widely used as a construction material in the 20th century, mainly as insulation in pipes, ceiling tiles, boilers and valves, but is now banned from use with government plans looking towards complete removal in the near future. Asbestos comes in a variety of forms, and those widely used for commercial construction are the most harmful.
Once asbestos has been identified during the site surveys, a professional asbestos removal firm will need to be employed. Failure to remove asbestos safely – or not recognising its presence – will expose workers to harmful fibres which can cause serious harm in the form of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Chemicals used during demolition
The work required for demolition may involve the use of hazardous chemicals like lubricants, gases and solvents. The planning prior to the project should make every effort to find safer alternatives so workers are less exposed to dangerous chemicals from the beginning. If this isn’t possible, the workers handling these chemicals should be sufficiently trained and briefed on the possible dangers, and proper personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn.
Lead can be an incredibly toxic substance and will cause serious harm to workers when inhaled or ingested. In construction, lead has been commonly used in paint, pipes, plumbing and roof flashings.
Lead poisoning can be prolonged and dangerous, so proper PPE should be provided to all workers and measures should be taken to provide workers with sufficient cleaning facilities after working in areas where lead is present.
Mould can develop easily in many buildings, especially in older structures, and the spores created by mould can have numerous effects on workers including: asthma, eczema, allergic reactions and other respiratory problems.
Mould develops in moist, warm and dark conditions and will spread quickly if left unattended. If mould is identified, the area should be thoroughly cleaned and whole body PPE – including respiratory equipment to prevent inhalation of spores – should be worn.
Like asbestos, PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) saw widespread use in the 1960’s but is rarely manufactured today due to health concerns. There may be PCBs present in many older buildings that were built or renovated during that time. PCBs are mainly found in electrical transformers and capacitors due to their stability and low flammability.
PCBs can cause cancer and a number of respiratory and immune system problems. The site survey should test for the presence of PCBs and equipment found to contain them should only be handled and disposed of by qualified personnel.
Pigeon and rat droppings
These can accumulate widely over disused or un-maintained structures. They can cause serious negative health issues for workers so proper PPE should be worn.
Previously stored chemicals
The presence of stored or unattended chemicals – such as fuels and solvents – will depend on how the building had been used before demolition was required. The site survey and risk assessment should take this into account and make special consideration for the presence of old drums or pipes used for storage.
Leakage may have occurred, so special care should be taken so as to prevent exposure to dangerous liquids, and to limit risk of fire or explosions.
Synthetic mineral fibres
Much like asbestos, man made fibres like glasswool and rockwool – commonly used as thermal and acoustic insulation in the 20th century – can cause significant harm to construction workers. While once thought to be carcinogenic, these fibres are found to cause severe irritation to skin and eyes, as well as damaging the throat and respiratory tract.
Some older fibres, however, are still classed as carcinogenic and, if identified around the site, need specialised attention to ensure safe removal and safe working conditions. Proper PPE should also be worn regardless of the type of mineral fibre, to help limit exposure.
Throughout any demolition project, vast amounts of dust are likely to be generated. Prolonged exposure can lead to serious respiratory damage, or even the development of cancer. Where dust is expected, the area should be properly prepped for containment. Water will help contain much of the dust, so mopping the area beforehand or utilising a sprinkler system will help. Proper PPE should be worn and care should be taken so as not to raise more dust than necessary.
Be sure to check back next month where we finish up by looking at health and safety risks associated with the equipment and machinery used around the worksite.
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ProDEM are proud to be one of the best demolition contractors Nottingham has to offer. We take every precaution to ensure that any demolition project we undertake, large or small, is performed to the strictest standards of safety and efficiency.
Our highly trained, experienced team work professionally at all times so if you need safe, effective and affordable demolition work carried out, get in touch with the friendly team at ProDEM today.