Richard Dolman, managing director of AR Demolition and vice-president of the Institute of Demolition Engineers, said it was time for the sector to consider new ways of dust suppression and protection from flying debris on demolition jobs.
His comments follow a spate of scaffolding collapses on demolition jobs in recent months – three in August alone in Reading, Liverpool and Nuneaton, with three injuries reported at the Reading incident.
“Scaffolding is useful if it’s used to take a building apart in reverse of how it was constructed, but I’ve never thought that it goes well with big machinery. It’s not even great for stopping dust because the minute you disassemble it, the dust goes everywhere. If there’s structural collapse, you’re in real trouble as the recent incidents show.”
AR Demolition’s alternative solution is a modular debris protection frame and blast mats.
“Our modular frame system took six months to design and can be transported in sections and bolted together in a day. The mats hang off a crane or a demolition rig – they’re six metres wide, 15 metres high and act as shield to stop debris and dust,” he said. “Only a few companies use it and as far as I know we’re the only one which uses an incorporated jet system to spray water back on to the work face.”
He continued: “Both systems are very unusual but they work brilliantly – as long as used they’re used within the right application and well within an exclusion zone – and we’ll be using them on several jobs over the next few months.”
He also said that scaffolding contributed to a false sense of security, encouraging the public to walk right next to a building being demolished rather than giving it a suitably wide berth.
“Correct exclusion zones are crucial,” Mr Dolman said. “Clients often push for small zones, not letting us close footpaths and roads. But in explosive demolition the exclusion zone has to be a radius three times as wide of the height of the structure. So why is that not the same with non-explosive work?”
He concluded: “Let me emphasise that I’m not saying there is no place for scaffolding in demolition. There are occasions – mainly during floor-by-floor, very controlled, small-scale demolition – when it is the most appropriate method of dust suppression and protection against debris. I just think that there are better methods which should be more commonplace.”