All forms of construction work can be dangerous. However, the process of dismantling a building can be particularly hazardous to labourers' health. Here are two steps that can be taken to minimise the risks associated with this type of work:
Manage and minimise exposure to toxic dust
Even a small house demolition project will generate massive quantities of dust. Some forms of dust can be extremely toxic when inhaled.
Take silica dust, for instance; this is often released into the air when plaster and other building materials are broken apart. If a person inhales this into their lungs, they may be at risk of developing a condition called silicosis, which can increase their susceptibility to lung infections and affect their ability to breathe.
To minimise the amount of dust that construction workers inhale during the demolition process, the building that is to be dismantled should be soaked with water (using hoses); this will help to prevent large quantities of dust from becoming airborne.
Those working on the demolition site should also be provided with respirators. Additionally, they should be instructed to thoroughly wash their faces, hands and any other exposed areas of skin before they go home, so as to ensure that they do not accidentally contaminate their vehicles and houses with toxic dust.
Manage the risks associated with loud noises
The process of breaking apart a building can be exceptionally noisy. The sounds of construction equipment such as cranes and excavators, coupled with the noise of falling concrete and brick, mean that labourers working on a demolition site may be at risk of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus (a condition which causes ringing in the ears).
To prevent hearing damage, labourers should be provided with hearing protection (i.e. heavy-duty soundproof headphones and ear plugs). Those in charge of providing hearing protection should ensure that it can be worn with, and will not impact the effectiveness of, other safety gear, such as hard hats and respirators.
Additionally, site managers should clearly establish specific zones in which hearing protection needs to be worn and make the wearing of this safety gear compulsory in these sections of the site.
Last but not least, labourers should be instructed to inspect their hearing protection equipment for signs of deterioration at the beginning of each work day. They should check for damage to the headphone's seals and make sure that the head strap has not loosened. Earplugs should be clean and pliable. If signs of damage are found, the labourer should not enter any parts of the site where hearing protection is required, until their items have been repaired or replaced.