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Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Removing Debris and Cleanup


Debris collection and removal tasks include picking up, clearing, separating, and removing debris. Most of these tasks are typically performed using heavy equipment; however, some manual effort can be necessary at every stage.

The foreman should determine when debris is to be removed, halt all demolition during debris removal, and make sure the area is clear of cleanup workers before continuing demolition.

  • Make sure openings cut in a floor for the disposal of materials are no larger than 25 percent of the aggregate of the total floor area, unless the lateral supports of the removed flooring remain in place.
  • Shore up floors weakened or otherwise made unsafe to safely carry the intended imposed load from demolition operations.
  • If debris is dropped inside the shaft, it can be removed through an opening in the chimney at grade level.
  • Keep the opening at grade level relatively small in order not to weaken the structure. Consult with a professional engineer if a larger opening is desired.
  • When removing debris by hand, use an overhead canopy of adequate strength. If machines are used for removal of debris, use proper overhead protection for the operator.
  • Do not allow excessive debris to accumulate inside or outside the shaft of the chimney as the excess weight of the debris can impose pressure on the wall of the structure and might cause the shaft to collapse.

Dropping Construction Debris


It’s important that drop chutes are designed and constructed of strong enough materials to eliminate failure due to impact of materials and debris. When drop chutes are in operation, make sure a competent person is always assigned to control the operation of the chute gate, and the backing and loading of trucks.

  • Never allow material to be dropped to any point lying outside the exterior walls of the structure unless it is effectively protected.
  • Plank off solid floor openings within 10 feet of any wall being demolished, except when employees are kept out of the area below.
  • Make sure that the waste and debris stored on any floor does not exceed the allowable floor load.
  • Enclose material chutes at greater than a 45-degree angle from the horizontal unless openings are equipped with closures at or about floor level for the insertion of materials.
  • Chute openings should be 48 inches or less in height measured along the wall of the chute. Openings at all floors below the top floor must be closed when the chute is not in use.
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  • Provide 42-inch high guardrails/barricades at least 6 feet back from the projected edge of the opening above where debris is dumped manually through floors without chutes.
  • Where debris is dumped using mechanical equipment or wheel barrows, provide 4-inch wide by 6-inch high toeboards/bumpers.
  • Block off storage spaces to which material is dumped unless the openings are used for the removal of materials and kept closed when material is not being removed.
  • Barricade and mark all debris-dropping areas. Post warning signs on each side of the debris opening at each floor level.
  • Ensure debris is not removed in lower areas until all debris-handling ceases in areas above.
  • Install a substantial gate in each chute at or near the discharge end. Make sure the discharge gate closed off when not in use.

Removing Walls and Masonry Sections


To prevent injury to employees engaged in removing walls and masonry sections, follow these best practices:

  • Demolition of exterior walls and floors must begin at the top of the structure and proceed downward.
  • Do not allow masonry walls to fall on the floors of a building in masses that would exceed the safe carrying capacities of the floors.
  • Do not allow wall sections, one story in height or higher, to stand alone without lateral bracing, unless the wall was originally designed and constructed to stand without lateral support, and is safe enough to be self-supporting.
  • Leave all walls in a stable condition at the end of each work shift.
  • Employees must not work on the top of a wall when weather conditions create a hazard.
  • Do not cut or remove structural or load-supporting members on any floor until all stories above the floor have been removed.
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  • In buildings of "skeleton-steel" construction, the steel framing may be left in place during the demolition of masonry. Where this is done, clear all steel beams, girders, and similar structural supports of all loose material as the masonry demolition progresses downward.
  • Provide walkways or ladders to enable workers to safely reach or leave any scaffold or wall.
  • Do not demolish walls that serve as retaining walls to support earth or adjoining structures, until the supporting earth has been properly braced or until adjoining structures have been properly underpinned.
  • Do not use walls which serve as retaining walls against which debris will be piled unless they are capable of supporting the imposed load.
  • Dismantle steel construction column length by column length, and tier by tier.


Watch this video of a building wall collapse as a worker attempts to pull bricks down. Saved him some time, but it was pretty dangerous!


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. What can happen if excessive debris accumulates inside or outside the shaft of the chimney?

2. When demolishing special structures, plank off solid all floor openings within _____, except when employees are kept out of the area below.

3. Where demolition debris is dumped using mechanical equipment or wheel barrows, provide _____ toeboards/bumpers.

4. What is important to remember when removing wall sections, one story in height or higher?

5. When removing walls and masonry sections, do not cut or remove structural or load-supporting members on any floor until _____.

Have a great day!

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