How many times have we seen on the news, footage of huge buildings being completely demolished without any damage to other buildings nearby? So precise is the planning that goes into demolition work that it is often scheduled at the same time new construction is taking place at the same work site.

In addition to the obvious hazards associated with demolition, like being hit by flying objects, there are associated occupational hazards, such as hearing loss, eye injuries, and injuries caused by breathing in dust and gasses.

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and The National Safety Council, have promulgated strict rules governing demolition work. Any time demolition is required, while at the same time, other trades are onsite working, the demolition contractor must file a written safety plan with a code official, and furnish a copy to the general contractor before they start work.

Unfortunately, in my experience, I have seen workers injured and/or killed, either because the contractor failed to file a demolition plan and follow it, or because the other contractors do not read it before starting their work.

Recently, I represented the estate of a young HVAC contractor who was killed while installing air conditioning equipment on the roof of an old movie theatre that was being renovated in Jersey City. Roofing involved demolition, as such, the contractor is required to prepare and file a work schedule with the general contractor and building code official. Due to a lack of experience and training, however, in my case, the contractor never prepared the required plan.

The roofer started work at 6:00 AM, in August, and removed the roof trusses. At the time the other men were taking their morning break, the HVAC contractor arrived onsite and hoisted a large compressor onto the roof with a mobile crane.

My client was standing on the roof waiting for the compressor, but neither his boss, nor the general contractor knew that the roofing contractor had removed the roof trusses. So when the compressor landed on the roof, the roof membrane gave way and the unit and my client crashed through the roof and fell to his death.

The lesson to be learned is that any time a contractor removes anything, even as small as a step or railing, he must understand that this is demolition, and should follow OSHA rules, which can save your life.