WorkCover NSW recently issued a safety alert about unexpected wall collapses and manual demolitions following an incident in which a worker died after a brick wall he was demolishing fell on him.
The worker had knocked out a bottom section of the wall with a sledgehammer, and preliminary findings indicate that the wall was weakened to the point of collapse.
The entire wall was to be removed to enlarge a storage area within an established building in the Sydney CBD.
When removing entire wall sections, the safety alert said those in control of such work should ensure that manual demolition methods that incorporate hand tools, such as jackhammers, sledgehammers and picks, should avoid weakening walls by never taking down multiple rows of brick at once or starting at the bottom of the wall.
Furthermore, when removing a portion of a wall where masonry will remain above an opening (to install a door or window, for example), the alert said the upper area of masonry should be supported prior to commencing demolition and the demolition should commence at the top of the intended opening.
In addition, exclusion zones should be established to keep unauthorised people outside of potential collapse zones and areas affected by rebounding material, and safe work method statements should be developed for any high risk construction work that is undertaken as part of the demolition work.
“This must be prepared in consultation with workers undertaking the activity and implemented during the demolition,” said WorkCover NSW.