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Demolition work means any work that involves the demolition or dismantling of a structure or part of a structure that is load-bearing or is related to the physical integrity of the structure. It does not include:

  • the dismantling of formwork, falsework, scaffolding or other structures designed or used to provide support, access or containment during construction work
  • the removal of power, light or telecommunication poles.

Refer to page 3 of the Code for more information on what is considered to be demolition work under the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) (the WHS Regulations).

Notifiable demolition work

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must give written notice to SafeWork SA, at least five days before work commences, if the demolition work involves:

  • demolition of a structure, or part of a structure, that is load-bearing or otherwise related to the physical integrity of the structure, that is at least six metres in height
  • load shifting machinery on a suspended floor
  • explosives.

Refer to page 9 of the Code for more information on notifiable demolition work.

Risk management

Demolition work should be carefully planned before work starts so that it can be carried out safely. The best way to manage risks associated with demolition work is to carry out a risk assessment.

The risk assessment process involves four steps:

  1. Identify the problem - this is known as hazard identification
  2. Determine how serious the problem is - this is known as risk assessment
  3. Decide what needs to be done about the problem - this is known as risk control
  4. Review the risk controls to make sure they are working as planned.

Identifying hazards

The first step is to identify the hazards associated with demolition work.

Walk around the work area and look for any hazards that are associated with the demolition work, consult with your workers on any potential hazards of which they are aware, and check records of previous demolition injuries, including 'near miss' incidents.

You should also consult, co-ordinate and co-operate with any other duty holders if they are involved in the same activities or share the same workplace e.g. mobile plant operators, structural engineers or asbestos removalists.

Common demolition hazards include:

  • unplanned structure collapse
  • falls from one level to another
  • falling objects
  • the location of above and underground essential services
  • exposure to hazardous chemicals
  • hazardous noise from plant and explosives used in demolition work
  • proximity of the building or structure being demolished to other buildings or structures.

Refer to pages 5-6 of the Code for more information on consultation requirements and identifying hazards.

Assessing the risk

Once you have identified the hazards, you should carry out a risk assessment. This will help you to determine what control measures you should use. A risk assessment is compulsory when working with asbestos or explosives.

When assessing the risks associated with demolition work you should consider:

  • the structure to be demolished and its structural integrity
  • the method of demolition including its sequencing
  • the scheduling of work
  • the layout of the workplace
  • what plant and equipment will be used and the skill and experience required by the people who will use it safely
  • what exposures might occur
  • the number of people involved
  • local weather conditions.

Refer to page 6 of the Code for more information on how to assess risks associated with demolition work.

Controlling the risks

The ways of controlling risks are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. This is known as the hierarchy of control. The WHS Regulations require you to work through this hierarchy when managing risk.

The highest control measures involve eliminating the hazard and the associated risk altogether.

If it is not possible to eliminate the risk altogether, then you must minimise the risk by using one of the following control measures, or a combination of control measures:

  • substituting the hazard with something safe e.g. using a mechanical demolition method rather than a manual method, if it is safe
  • isolating the hazard e.g. using concrete barriers to separate pedestrians and powered mobile plant to reduce the risk of collision
  • using engineering controls e.g. fitting an open cab excavator with a falling objects protective structure to minimise the risk of being struck by a falling object
  • using administrative controls e.g. installing warning signs

If any remaining risk remains then suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided to workers, such as hard hats, steel cap boots and high visibility vests.

Any control measures that are put in place should be regularly reviewed to make sure that they remain effective.

Refer to Chapters 4-6 of the Code for more information on how to control risks associated with demolition work.

Safe Work Method Statements

If the demolition of an element of a structure is load-bearing or is otherwise related to the physical integrity of the structure then it is considered to be 'high risk construction work' and a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) must be prepared before the work commences.

One SWMS can be prepared to cover all high risk construction work being carried out at the workplace.

Refer to page 12 of the Code for more information on how to prepare a SWMS.

Licensing requirements

A licence is required to undertake some demolition work. Licences are also required for any work that involves asbestos removal or explosives.

Refer to page 13 of the Code for more information on demolition licensing requirements.

Related Information

Demolition work