The Hazards of Industrial Demolitions
An Industrial demolition is a whole different beast than house demolition projects. Although all demolition jobs involve the partial or total dismantlement of a structure, the fact that industrial sites have previously been used in the production of goods dramatically increases the complexity of the entire endeavour. In fact, industrial demolition jobs quite often require the participation of specialised engineering, rigging, and decontamination crews.
Is demolition a regulated industry?
Industrial demolition is one of the most stringently regulated industries because it often involves the tear-down of decommissioned chemical processing plants, refineries, product manufacturing facilities, etc. Taking on such a project will usually include the remediation of dangerous substances and surmounting of various hazards caused by fire damage, elevated heights, and structural deficiencies.
Therefore, all industrial demolition projects fall under the purview of state and federal regulatory agencies overseeing the occupational safety of workers and the protection of the environment. Consequently, all industrial demolition projects must be executed with the foreknowledge of surveys and reports detailing pre-construction information that is pertinent to the safety of the project and all those involved.
Are there hidden dangers in industrial demolition?
Hazardous materials are quite common during an industrial demolition and workers and crew will regularly come into direct contact with chemicals, products containing traces, fumes, dust, asphyxiating gases, heavy metals, asbestos, and many other contaminants. Of these, two are of particular concern to all involved in an industrial demolition: Asbestos and Polychlorinated Biphenyls or PCBs.
Asbestos is a mineral fibre that has been used in various construction materials throughout the years. You will generally find asbestos in such articles as insulation, fire retardants, roofing, flooring, and even in cement tiles. In fact, if the site being demolished was built before the year 2000, it is very virtually guaranteed to include asbestos. However, it has been confirmed that all types of asbestos fibres cause severe and often fatal illnesses in humans. Therefore, asbestos abatement is now a significant component of industrial demolitions.
PCB, or Polychlorinated Biphenyl, is an organic chlorine compound that was once widely used as coolant fluid within a wide range of industrial electrical devices, as well as in paints, cement mixtures, and casting agents. However, PCBs pose a grave environmental toxicity problem and are presently qualified as a Persistent Organic Pollutant. Additionally, PCBs are chemically unreactive, resistant to combustion, and highly inert which makes their safe disposal a particularly tricky task.
Industrial demolition contractors should be committed to worker and crew safety, as well as be thoroughly familiar with the guidelines of all the pertinent local and national regulatory agencies. Controlling the emission of hazardous pollutants during an industrial demolition is a challenging task and should only be attempted by teams composed of highly qualified and specialised personnel.
Dust in the Wind
Dust generated through structural demolitions and debris recycling is, in the best of circumstances, a nuisance; however, in a worst-case scenario, demolition dust has the potential to generate a serious health concern.
Any given construction site or demolition in Melbourne has the potential to generate large quantities of pulverised dust particles of varying sizes. While the larger particles tend to settle out, the smaller, microscopic particles can remain in the air for inordinate amounts of time. When dust particles remain in the air, they become breathable and generate the potential for respiratory consequences in those exposed.
Children and the elderly are especially susceptible to these conditions, and thus, particular consideration should be had whenever these types of projects are enacted around them. This is particularly true in the case of industrial demolitions because of the added risk imposed by the presence of other environmental contaminants.
Whenever structures are torn down, any dust that is not removed immediately will eventually cause health problems; thus the importance of relying on conscientious contractors cannot be overemphasised. Unscrupulous contractors will prioritise getting as many projects going as possible which severely minimises their ability to manage the safety risks of demolition proficiently.