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July 15th, 2013

Building Collapse & Demolition Accidents – The Importance of the Engineering Survey

The engineering survey is arguably one of the most important parts of a demolition project. An engineering survey determines not only how a given building will be demolished, but also, safety issues related to adjacent buildings and structures as well as preventing premature collapse.

OSHA regulations which apply to demolitions projects also require an engineering survey. Section 1926.850(a) provides:

Prior to permitting employees to start demolition operations, an engineering survey shall be made, by a competent person, of the structure to determine the condition of the framing, floors, and walls, and possibility of unplanned collapse of any portion of the structure. Any adjacent structure where employees may be exposed shall also be similarly checked. The employer shall have in writing evidence that such a survey has been performed.

Why is the Engineering Survey Important?

A qualified individual will examine the condition of the building to determine the measures that can be taken to prevent unintended collapse. The framing, floors, walls, roof structure, etc. will be examined as part of the survey. It is usually advisable to take photos of the structure as well as adjacent structures.

The survey gives the contractor performing the demolition work the ability to plan for the wrecking operations. A plan for equipment, manpower and safety considerations will be devised. In many demolition projects, shoring walls and floors will be necessary.

Safety should be a top consideration. Engineering surveys are crucial for safety of not only the workers actually performing the demolition work, but also those in surrounding and adjacent buildings. The demolition contractor should devise safety plans for the following:

  • cave-ins,
  • presence of hazardous substances (i.e., chemicals or flammable materials),
  • safety nets, and
  • personal protection equipment (face/eye protection).

The reality is that demolition operations are very dangerous. Workers, people in adjacent buildings, and the general public are all at risk of unintended collapse and/or injury from falling debris.

When negligence leads to an accident, multiple parties may be held liable, such as the engineering survey company, the demolition contractor, and/or any of the subcontractors (i.e., equipment operating companies).


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  • laborers.

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