Weekly Safety Meeting – California Safety in Demolition

One of the most dangerous times in any worker’s career is when he or she is working to demolish something. During this activity, you are in the process of dismantling some structure, machine, or object and, just as when it was installed, you have to ensure each piece is put in, or in this case removed in the correct order.

Demolition is dangerous, as you don’t always know what piece is supporting what. Frankly sometimes it is better to just destroy something in place rather than trying to disassemble it.

Demolition is the dismantling, razing, destroying, or wrecking of any building or structure, or any part thereof. Demolition work involves many of the hazards associated with construction.

However, demolition involves additional hazards due to unknown factors that make demolition work particularly dangerous.

These may include:

  • Changes from the structure’s design introduced during construction;
  • Approved or unapproved modifications that altered the original design;
  • Materials hidden within structural members, such as lead, asbestos, silica, and other chemicals or heavy metals requiring special material handling;
  • Unknown strengths or weaknesses of construction materials, such as post-tensioned concrete; and
  • Hazards created by the demolition methods used.

Demolition work shall at all times be under the immediate supervision of a qualified person with the authority to secure maximum safety for employees engaged in demolition work.

Qualified Person (California):

A qualified person is a person designated by the employer, and by reason of training, experience, or instruction, has demonstrated the ability to perform safely all assigned duties and, when required, is properly licensed in accordance with federal, state, or local laws and regulations.


Prior to permitting employees to start demolition operations, a qualified person shall make a survey of the structure to determine the condition of the framing, floors, and walls, and the possibility of an unplanned collapse of any portion of the structure. Any adjacent structure where employees may be exposed shall also be similarly checked.

The survey shall be in written form, kept on the job-site and made available to the Division upon request. The written survey shall be maintained for the duration of the demolition project.

Cal/OSHA Permit:

To conduct the demolition or dismantling of any building or structure more than 36 feet in height, the Project Administrator shall hold a Project Permit and all other employers directly engaging in demolition or dismantling activity shall hold an Annual Permit.

The purpose of a permit is to provide notice to the Division that an employer will undertake permit- required activity and to allow the Division an effective means of ensuring that the proposed permit- required activity will be performed safely.


Plan ahead to get the job done safely.

Proper planning is essential to ensure a demolition operation is conducted with no accidents or injuries. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • An engineering survey completed by a qualified person before any demolition work takes place; this should include the condition of the structure and the possibility of an unplanned collapse;
  • Locating, securing, and/or relocating any nearby utilities; for help, call 811 before you dig;
  • Fire prevention and evacuation plan;
  • First Aid and Emergency Medical Services; and
  • An assessment of health hazards completed before any demolition work takes place.

Emergency Preparation:

Workers should also know how to respond to possible emergencies. Emergency procedures should be devised, explained, and posted. Make sure to name all the local medical or emergency responding facilities and post those names in a readily accessible location with phone numbers and addresses. Post all first aid and CPR equipment with the names of on-site certified individuals.

The demolition area should be clearly marked as such to ensure that only authorized personnel are within restricted areas of the site. All site workers or authorized personnel should be dressed in appropriate personal protective wear and be informed of safety practices and emergency procedures.

Provide the Right Protection and Equipment:

The employer must determine what Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be required. In demolition operations, PPE may include:

  • Eye, face, head, hand, foot protection;
  • Respiratory protection;
  • Hearing protection;
  • Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS); or
  • Other protective clothing (for example, for cutting or welding operations).

It is not enough to provide PPE. Employees must be trained on the selection, use, fitting, inspection, maintenance, and storage of PPE.

Train all employees about hazards and how to use the equipment safely.


There are many safety precautions that need to be taken in the interest of ensuring that a demolition project is completed without any harm to other nearby structures, workers, or other people.

Employers must ensure that all workers involved in a demolition project are fully aware of hazards and safety precautions before work begins and as it progresses.

Download flyer: SMOTW_828_California Safety in Demolition

Download Spanish flyer: SMOTW_828_California Safety in Demolition_esp

You may also like...