Demolition Accidents

Legal Implications of Demolition Accidents: Understanding Your Rights

NTZ Editor

Demolition-related construction accidents often involve explosives and other powerful demolition equipment. The resulting accidents frequently cause fatality or severe bodily injury, leaving construction workers unable to work and the potential for years of pain and suffering.

For example, according to workplace accident data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
(BLS), a total of 78 construction workers were killed in demolition accidents throughout the country in 2020. In 2019, demolition accounted for around 8% of construction-related accidents in New York City, ranking third only to worker falls and material failures.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), demolition is the process
of dismantling, razing, destroying, or wrecking a building or structure or any component of it.

Three Types of Demolition

  • Deconstruction involves manual labor to systematically dismantle a structure piece by piece, allowing for recycling and reuse of materials but requiring more time and safety precautions.
  • Mechanical demolition uses heavy machinery to pull or push the structure down, resulting in a faster process, although it involves the risk of falls and crush injuries.
  • Implosion is utilized for large structures in populated areas, employing strategically placed explosives to collapse the building safely within seconds while minimizing damage to the surroundings. It necessitates collaboration between explosives experts and building designers for safe execution.

Many of the same hazards exist with demolition work as with general construction. However,
additional risks due to unknown circumstances make demolition operations very dangerous,

  • Changes to the structure’s design during construction
  • Approved or unapproved alterations that affect the original design
  • Hidden materials, including lead, asbestos, silica, and heavy metals that require particular treatment
  • Unknown strengths and weaknesses in construction materials, such as post-tensioned concrete

Common Causes of Accidents During Demolition Work

OSHA cites several examples of demolition accidents to illustrate the dangers of this type of work, including a demolition worker who was impaled by rebar, a construction worker electrocuted during demolition operations, and an employee on an aerial lift killed when the roof collapsed during demolition work.

Common causes of demolition accidents include:

  • Falling debris. Roofing materials and bricks can strike workers during demolition work.
  • Falls from heights. Demolition work often involves jobs at multistory buildings. Without the right fall protection, an accident could result in severe injuries or death.
  • Loud equipment and power tools. Use of these can lead to hearing loss as well as the inability of workers to effectively communicate safety orders.
  • Equipment failure. The malfunction or faulty maintenance of cranes, excavators, wrecking balls, and other heavy machinery and equipment used in demolition can result in accidents, inflicting serious injury upon workers. Hydraulic system failures, structural collapses, and mechanical faults are all possible reasons for equipment failure.
  • Explosions and fires. Demolition work may include handling dangerous chemicals or discovering unanticipated ignition sources, resulting in explosions or flames. Gas leaks, electrical failures, or improper flammable material handling can cause these occurrences. Explosions and fires endanger workers and can cause severe burns, respiratory problems, or even death.
  • Structural collapse. During demolition, structures can collapse unexpectedly. Weak foundations, improper dismantling techniques, or unforeseen structural weaknesses can cause buildings or portions of structures to collapse, trapping and injuring workers within the debris.
  • Release of hazardous materials. This includes materials such as lead, asbestos, silica, or other chemicals or heavy metals.

Type of Injuries Due to Demolition Accidents

Demolition work accounts for a high proportion of fatal and nonfatal severe injuries in the construction industry. The most common demolition accident injuries are:

  • Impalement
  • Burns from electrocution
  • Broken bones
  • Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Vision and hearing loss
  • Total blindness

Demolition work can also lead to illness. Asbestos, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other hazardous compounds can cause chronic, fibrotic, interstitial lung illness, malignant mesothelioma, lung cancer, and laryngeal and gastrointestinal malignancies.

Why Demolition Accidents Occur

Good planning, the appropriate personal protective equipment, requisite training, and adherence to
OSHA guidelines can control and reduce the hazards associated with demolition work.

Following are several reasons why demolition accidents occur:

  • Failure to Obtain an Engineering Survey Before Demolition: According to OSHA, more than 50% of all demolition-related citations involved an employer’s failure to obtain an engineering survey before demolition. Skipping this critical step can result in building collapses or falling objects striking workers during demolition work.
  • Failure to Properly Prep for Demolition Work: 75% of OSHA citations are related to an employer’s failure to prepare for demolition adequately. This involves properly training demolition workers and warning them about the potential risks before the work begins and providing workers with proper safety equipment, including hard hats, safety goggles, ventilation devices, construction-grade earplugs, and other equipment designed to protect a worker’s eyes and ears.
  • Failure to Follow Standard Demolition Procedures: Employers have also been cited for not adhering to standard procedures when performing demolition work, including failure to handle or dispose of hazardous materials properly.

What Should You Do If You’ve Been Injured in a Demolition Accident?

Demolition accident claims are complex, with several responsible parties, including a subcontractor. The first step in learning more about the claims process and your options is to consult with a specialist construction accident injury attorney.

A New York construction accident injury lawyer understands the rules, regulations, and legalities governing demolition work in the Big Apple. Your attorney will assist you in obtaining the Workers’ Compensation benefits to which you’re entitled. Workers’ Compensation benefits will pay for your medical bills, rehabilitation costs, a portion of lost wages, and/or even partial or permanent
physical impairment.

Additionally, an attorney specializing in construction-related injuries can determine whether a third
party is responsible for your injuries and pain and suffering.

Contact the Law Office of Nicholas E. Tzaneteas

The Law Office of Nicholas E. Tzaneteas specializes in helping victims of demolition accidents in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. As part of our legal services, we will investigate why the demolition disaster happened, determine who caused the demolition accident that resulted in your injuries, and file insurance claims and lawsuits (based on our findings and whether negligence was involved) for damages.

Request a Free Consultation

    Accessibility Tools