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Demolition Basics Program Elements

Demolition Defined


Demolition is the dismantling, razing, destroying or wrecking of any building or structure or any part thereof. The method most widely used in building demolition is called mechanical demolition, which involves the use of specialized equipment such as excavators equipped with tools for crushing concrete and shearing steel.

High-rise structures may be brought down using implosion methods using specialized explosives. Finally, specialized demolition may require the use of hand-held pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical power tools to break up, cut, chip, and drill on smaller projects.

Demolition Safety Program

To combat the hazards associated with demolition work, it is important that the employer establish an effective Demolition Safety Program. Everyone at a demolition worksite must be fully aware of the hazards they may encounter and the safety precautions they must take to protect themselves and their employees.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the Demolition safety is more complicated than in standard construction. Old structures can be weak and unpredictable. Listen to hear tips on demolitions.

Contractor Preparation

Wrigley Field demolition project

Before the start of every demolition job, the demolition contractor should take a number of steps to safeguard the health and safety of workers at the job site.

These preparatory operations involve the overall planning of the demolition job, including:

  • the methods to be used to bring the structure down
  • the equipment necessary to do the job
  • the measures to be taken to perform the work safely

The contractor should also plan for:

  • the wrecking of the structure
  • the equipment to do the work
  • manpower requirements
  • the protection of the public

The safety of all workers on the job site should be a prime consideration.

Demolition in action.

The Safety Report

The development of a safety report specific to the demolition project is critical to planning the project. The safety report should include, but is not limited to, the following components:

  • an engineering survey completed by a competent person before any demolition work takes place (including the condition of the structure and the possibility of an unplanned collapse)
  • locating, securing, and/or relocating any nearby utilities
  • fire prevention and evacuation plan
  • emergency, first aid and security services
  • an assessment of health hazards completed before any demolition work takes place.
  • training requirements

The Engineering Survey

engineering survey

The most common citation issued was for failure to conduct an engineering survey to determine the condition of the structure prior to demolition. This includes determining whether an unplanned collapse of the building or any adjacent structure would injure those working in the vicinity. The demolition contractor must maintain a written copy of this survey.

The engineering survey provides the demolition contractor with the opportunity to evaluate the job in its entirety. The purpose of the engineering survey is to determine the condition of the framing, floors, and walls so that measures can be taken, if necessary, to prevent the premature collapse of any portion of the structure. All of the following should be addressed in the survey:

  • Competent person: Prior to starting all demolition operations, ensure a competent person conducts an engineering survey of the structure.
  • Adjacent structures: Check any adjacent structure(s) or improvements. Photographing existing damage in neighboring structures is also advisable. The contractor should also plan for potential hazards such as fires, cave-ins, and injuries.
  • Damaged structures: If the structure has been damaged by fire, flood, explosion, or some other cause, take appropriate measures, including bracing and shoring of walls and floors, to protect workers and any adjacent structures.
  • Hazardous substances: Determine if any type of hazardous chemicals, gases, explosives, flammable materials, or similarly dangerous substances have been used in any pipes, tanks, or other equipment on the property. When the presence of any such substances is apparent or suspected, testing and purging must be performed and the hazard eliminated before demolition is started.
  • Protective equipment: Determine the safety equipment needs. In demolition operations, PPE may include:
    • eye, face, head, hand, and foot protection
    • respiratory protection
    • hearing protection
    • personal fall arrest systems (PFAS)
    • other protective clothing

The Engineering Survey Report


The engineering survey should result in a formal (written) report that should include each of the following sections:

  • building characteristics (i.e., construction type & structure size, height, structural hazards, enclosed/confined spaces, wall ties, shoring types and locations)
  • protection for adjacent structures
  • methods for demolition
  • methods to protect the public
  • protection of utilities (overhead and underground)
  • protection of above and below-ground tanks
  • hazardous materials removal
  • blasting requirements (29 CFR 1926, Subpart U, Blasting Safety Requirements)
  • training requirements

See this sample of a Building Demolition Plan that includes a comprehensive engineering survey at Attachment B

Locating Utilities

pre-job planning

One of the most important elements of the pre-job planning is the location of all utility services. Make sure all electric, gas, water, steam, sewer, and other services lines are shut off, capped, or otherwise controlled, at or outside the building before demolition work is started. Other best practices include the following:

  • Any utility company that is involved should be notified in advance, and its approval or services, if necessary, should be obtained.
  • If it is necessary to maintain any power, water, or other utilities during demolition, temporarily relocate and/or protect those lines as necessary.
  • Determine the location of all overhead power sources, as they can prove especially hazardous during any machine demolition.
  • Inform all workers of the location of any existing or relocated utility service.



Under the OSH Act, Public Law 91-596, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace for employees. Employers must instruct employees how to recognize and avoid or remove hazards that may cause an injury or illness based on their assigned duties. Certain OSHA construction standards require that employees receive training in specific topics. Employers must provide this safety training in a language and vocabulary their workers can understand.

Employees working on demolition projects may need training in topics including:

  • asbestos, lead and silica awareness and removal
  • oxygen/fuel cutting
  • scaffolding
  • working at height
  • material handling
  • demolition supervisor course
  • abrasive grinding
  • powered industrial truck operations
  • blasting operations
  • personal protective equipment


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Which of the following is the method most widely used in building demolition?

2. High-rise structures may be brought down using implosion methods using _____.

3. Which of the following is the most common OSHA citation issued for demolition operations?

4. The engineering report should result in a formal report that includes:

5. One of the most important elements of the pre-job planning is _____.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.