Predemolition Fall: Common Scenario

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Jon J. Pina, MS, CSP, Safety, Health, Environmental ::::

Case Synopsis: While walking through the building, a company official was instantly killed when the stairwell he was descending collapsed. He was there to observe existing asbestos containing materials in preparation to complete a bid. His partner was following him and witnessed the unexpected, and unfortunate, event.

Expert Analysis: The plaintiff’s safety expert requested a copy of the pre-demolition engineering survey, which was required to be completed prior to any demolition activities.  OSHA requires an engineering survey to be written and made available to those who enter the site of a facility, scheduled for demolition or renovation, in order to identify unsafe and unsound structures that may fail prior to demolition activities.  In this case, no written survey was completed of the building, an old hospital that had been abandoned and was a target for vandals, thieves, and other trespassers for years.  Had the survey been completed, the stairwell that collapsed from the plaintiff’s weight would have been identified and barricaded to prevent access.  Failure to complete the engineering survey is not uncommon, even on many large projects such as this one.  Since many buildings scheduled for demolition have been idle and exposed to the weather for quite some time, building access can be extremely hazardous, especially for falls due to unsafe structures. A site orientation warning all parties of the dangers of unsound structures, and other safety hazards was required prior to the admittance of anyone, regardless of their purpose for entering the site.  All dangerous areas should have be isolated with barricades and warning signs not to enter.

Result:  The case settled favorably for the plaintiff. Had the defendant pursued the fact that the building owner and construction manager should have had an engineering survey completed, and made available to all parties entering the site, the plaintiff may have ultimately avoided using the stairwell that collapsed.   

 

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