Hazard identification tool - Demolition

This publication is for: 
BuilderEmployee / workerEmployer

This educational article has been developed to assist in the identification of occupational safety and health (OSH) hazards. The hazard identification tools were developed following interviews with principal contractors and subcontractors, which highlighted the accurate identification of hazards as significant in the successful management of subcontractor safety.  

The hazard identification tools have been adapted from a series of hazard profiles developed by the University of New South Wales and WorkCover NSW and modified to reflect West Australian terminology and practice. This was achieved in consultation with WorkSafe Inspectors and the Construction Industry Safety Advisory Committee of the Commission for Occupational Safety and Health.

Hazard identification tools can be used as a guide to help:

  • identify generic hazards and the controls required for a job task; 
  • assist in formulating relevant and effective safe work method statements; 
  • guide or induct new workers in the typical hazards for a specific trade; and 
  • check that all general trade specific hazards have been identified in safety documentation required by the principal contractor.

Hazard identification tool - Demolition

Job Activity (Tasks) What Can Harm You (Hazards)  What Can Happen (Risks)  Causes Which Need to be Managed (Controlled) 
General Planning Inadequate training, planning and improvisation.  Task specific injuries due to inexperience, or failure to provide appropriate equipment.
  • Insufficient skills (competency) to complete the required task. 
  • Inadequate competent supervision. 
  • Planning for required equipment not carried out. 
  • Improvisation using inappropriate equipment. 
  Poor access.  Slips, trips and falls; abrasions, strains and sprains; manual handling injuries. 
  • Access to work area cluttered – poor housekeeping. 
  • Area around work area cluttered with stored materials and/or rubbish. 
  • Inadequate access for demolishers and their equipment. 
  Insufficient lighting. Slips, trips and falls; walk into objects.
  • Poor lighting provided especially in basement areas.
  • Access ways not suitably defined or lighted.
  Lack of adequate ventilation. Illness; overcome by fumes.
  • Working in a confined space.
  • Intake for asbestos decontamination, or other chamber positioned too close to diesel or other fumes.
  • Petrol/ diesel driven equipment used.
  Working at height near edge. Fall from the edge of a floor.
  • Inadequate strength in perimeter handrail or midrail and fenderboard missing.
  • Gaps in perimeter protection, e.g. between screen or edge scaffold.
  • No catch scaffold provided.
  Penetrations.  Fall through penetration.
  • Penetrations not fenced or covered, or cover not secured forming “trap”. 
  Uncontrolled collapse of structure or part of structure.  Serious injury to person/s. 
  • Poor planning of the demolition process. 
  • Planning, including method of demolition not approved by the appropriate Authority. 
  Noise from plant and equipment.  Hearing damage. 
  • No engineering solution for high noise level, e.g. quieter or muffled equipment.
  • No temporary sound absorption screen or barrier to protect other persons in the area. 
  • No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task. 
  Sharp objects.  Cuts, lacerations,  puncture wounds. 
  • No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task. 
  Hazardous materials in structure.  Exposure to hazardous  materials.
  • Hazardous substances survey not conducted prior to commencement of work. 
  • Detailed removal techniques not documented. 
  • Specialised workers (licensed) not involved in removal or workers not inducted. 
  • Hazardous materials not reported when detected.
  • Required precautions for removal, handling and disposal not followed. 
  • Demolition techniques inappropriate for containment of hazardous material – scatter material over a wide area.
  • Other workers not prevented  from entering areas where  hazardous materials exist or  are being removed.
  • No warning signs or signs insufficient. 
  • Hazardous material left on site after completion of work. 
  • Bagged materials not removed before damage to bag/s occurs. 
  Dust and other fibres.  Inhalation, respiratory disease. 
  •  No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task. 
  Exposure to Ultra Violet Light, glare.  Skin cancer; sunburn, eye damage. 
  • Personal protective clothing – sunscreen 15-30+, shirt, flap on hard hat not worn. 
  • AS rated sunglasses not worn. 
Preliminaries Disconnect and/or decommission services Electricity.  Electric shock, burns or electrocution. 
  • Licensed electrical contractor not used to switch off/isolate power. 
  • On site labour do not treat all power circuits as live. 
  • Pyro connection (fire backup for alarm) not identified, tagged and isolated. 
  • Earth Leakage Switch not installed on mains supply or portable generator. 
  • Other power source from outside the site not identified and disconnected. 
  • Irregular unauthorised connections not identified and disconnected. 
  • Temporary connections not identified, tagged and isolated. 
  Gas. Injury from explosion; severe burns from being caught in the explosion, or fire or fire fighting a fire. 
  • Licensed Gas Plumber not used to isolate and switch off gas supply at source. 
  • Residual vapour in mains not flushed with compressed air. 
  • Workers attempt to fight a gas fire instead of notifying emergency services. 
  • Leaks in pipes caused by heavy machinery loading. 
  • Irregular unauthorised connections not identified and disconnected. 
  Other volatile or explosive materials.  Injury from explosion; severe burns from being caught in the explosion or fighting a fire. 
  • Insufficient identification and planning. 
  • Dust ignition. 
  • Chemical ignition. 
  • Diesel/petroleum ignition. 
  • Decommissioning of old chemical, or fuel tanks. 
  Fire.  Burns and/or smoke inhalation or asphyxiation. 
  • Short circuit. 
  • Work area not cleared of combustible material prior to oxy cutting. 
  • Stray spark from oxy or other. 
  • 'Spotter' (additional worker) not used to watch for spot fires that may be caused by sparks from oxy cutting. 
  • Material combustion. 
  • Fire extinguisher not maintained or adjacent to work area. 
  • Workers not trained in the use of fire fighting equipment. 

Protection of the public and site personnel 

Wind borne dust and small particles.  Struck by dust or small particles. Eye injuries. 
  • Dust not wet down. 
  • No regular clean ups and removal. 
  • Safety glasses not worn. 
  • Poor separation and/or public protection in areas, which are still accessible to the public. 
  • Perimeter scaffold not adequately screened e.g. wire mesh and fire retardant material. 
  Large falling debris or partial collapse.  Serious injury to persons. 
  • Poor separation and/or public protection in areas that are still accessible to the public. 
  • Uncontrolled collapse of large members or other material. 
  • Insufficient planning for lowering or control of large materials. 
  Collapse of a façade to be retained.  Serious injury to person/s. 
  • Insufficient planning by engineer/s or other responsible persons. 
  • Planning does not allow for adverse weather – e.g. high winds. 
  • Façade foundation undermined. 
  • Façade supporting structure struck by plant. 
  • Poor separation and/or public protection in area that are still accessible to the public. 
  Scaffold collapse. Serious injury to  person/s. 
  •  Competent person not used for scaffold erection up to 4 metres in height. 
  • Certificated Scaffolder not used to erect scaffold in excess of 4 metres in height. 
  • Foundation unstable.
  • Struck by plant.
  • Scaffold not tied in at specified intervals or some/all ties have been removed. 
  • Wrong type of scaffold used – not heavy duty. 
  • Scaffold overloaded beyond safe working limits. 
  • Different scaffold systems mixed together. 
  Lifting loads by crane Serious injury to person/s from falling material being lifted. 
  • Certificated Dogger or Crane Driver not used. 
  • Individual loads not inspected and cleared before lifting commences. 
  • Slings not regularly inspected and tested. 
  • Load not slung correctly. 
  • Sling capacity overloaded. 
  • Load strikes object, e.g. structure, when lifting or lowering. 
  • Communication error between Dogger and Crane Driver. 
  • Foundation for mobile crane unstable. 
Hazardous materials removal  Release of asbestos fibres.  Exposure to asbestos. 
  • Unidentified sources within the structure 
  • Contamination of area with friable asbestos. 
  • Release of fibres during removal of: 
    • thermal acoustic materials containing asbestos on ceilings and beams etc. 
    • asbestos cement building materials e.g. roof and wall sheeting. 
    • pipes insulated with asbestos. 
    • vinyl tiles. 
    • roof membranes. 
    • electrical switchboards. 
    • lift brake linings. 
    • mastic sealants.
  Lead dust or fumes. 

Exposure to lead.

  • Unidentified lead paint on site. 
  • Inhalation of lead contaminated dust. 
  • Inhalation of lead contaminated fumes when cutting lead painted material. 
  Heat generated toxic fumes.  Inhalation of fumes. 
  • Inhalation of Zinc fumes when cutting galvanised material. 
  • Inhalation of lead contaminated fumes when cutting lead painted material. 
  Mercury in switch gear.  Exposure to Mercury.
  • Unidentified sources within structure. 
  • Damage to electrical switchgear during removal. 
  PCBs in light fittings and transformers.  Exposure to PCBs. 
  • Unidentified sources within structure. 
  • Damage to fluorescent lights during removal. 
  • Damage to transformers during removal.
  Contamination of or lack of air.  Person collapses, suffocates or is asphyxiated. 
  • Intake for asbestos decontamination unit, or air supply positioned too close to diesel, or other fumes. 
  • Asphyxiation in a confined space due to lack of ventilation. 
  • Confined Spaces Regulation not followed. 
  Petrochemical products.  Exposure causing allergies or other skin irritations. 
  • Allergic reaction to chemicals. 
  • No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task. 
  Synthetic mineral fibres (SMFs).  Release of fibres – inhalation. 
  • Unidentified sources within structure. 
  • Work not conducted in a controlled manner when demolishing walls or ceilings. 
  • Scatter of glass fibres, mineral wool particles, SMFs. 
  • Fibres not securely bagged and removed before damage to bags occurs. 
  • No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task.
Soft strip out Sharp objects. 

Puncture wounds, cuts, glass fragments in the eye/s. 

  • No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task. 
  • Debris not cleared from work area on a regular basis. 
  • Hypodermic needles left by drug users. 
  • Nails protruding from timber and other materials. 
  • Removal of debris containing glass or metal with sharp edges. 
  • Glass breaks during removal. 
Structural demolition techniques Heavy mobile plant in operation. 

Worker struck by plant. 

  • Working too close to plant operating area. 
  • Workers not aware of planned exclusion zone for operation of plant. 
  • 'Spotter' not used to supervise plant. 
  • Operator error in the control of the plant. 
  • Risk taking - violation of instruction or rule. 
  • Plant not switched off during on site maintenance. 
  • Additional passenger riding on the plant. 
  • Operator not signalled (eye contact) before approaching the operating plant or work area. 
  • No PPE provided for the required task. (e.g. high visibility vest) 
  • No reversing beepers. 
  Plant working at height tipping debris over an open edge.  Operating plant dragged over edge. 
  • Work area cluttered with debris, particularly steel reinforcement and concrete. 
  • Debris caught on plant, e.g. in wheels or tracks. 
  • No bump rail for plant at point where debris is tipped over the edge. 
  • Safety rail of inadequate strength, and height, unable to withstand possible plant impact. 
  • Edge protection not replaced immediately if removed to increase access to the edge. 
  Stability of operating plant.  Roll over crushing operator. 
  • Inadequate foundation for operating plant. 
  • Subsidence, collapse of earth or rubble below or adjacent to plant. 
  • Plant operating too close to an excavation, basement or trench. 
  • Plant inclined beyond safe operating limits. 
  Plant or equipment generated projectiles.  Person/s struck by debris flung out from plant. 
  • Poor housekeeping around plant and equipment. 
  • Debris spun off machinery wheels or tracks.
  • Shattered concrete or masonry breakage when using powered hammers or picks.
  • Unauthorised persons entering the work area.
  • Operator not adequately protected. 
  Wall/s destabilised.  Collapse of wall or part of the wall onto person/s. 
  • Site inspection and detailed Work Method Statement not carried out. 
  • Engineering approval for demolition sequence not obtained. 
  • Planned demolition sequence not followed. 
  • Public areas, e.g. street or walkway, not closed if there is a risk of collapse. 
  • Demolition not started at the top of the wall. 
  • Operator untrained, lack of understanding of specific demolition sequence. 
  • Stray debris falls, e.g. loose bricks. 
  • Undetected changes in wall structure, e.g. ducts. 
  • Not built to plan or plans incorrect. 
  Column/s overloaded or destabilised.  Uncontrolled collapse causing death or multiple injuries. 
  • Site inspection and detailed Work Method Statement not carried out. 
  • Engineering report not correct. 
  • Planned demolition sequence not followed. 
  • Not built to plan or plans incorrect. 
  • Overloading of floors. 
  • Moving plant collides with, or swinging boom, hits column. 
  • Deterioration due to termites or rust. 
  • Public areas, eg street or walkway, not closed if there is a risk of collapse
  Floor/s overloaded or destabilised.  Floor collapse causing death or multiple injuries. 
  • Site inspection and detailed Work Method Statement not carried out. 
  • Engineering report not correct. 
  • Plant falls through floor. 
  • Not built to plan or plans incorrect. 
  • Changes in floor structure or part thereof during life of building e.g. old lift well, tower crane or dumbwaiter. 
  • Demolition materials stacked too high causing overload. 
  • Structural engineer’s report does not establish depth guidelines for the stacking of rubble. 
  • Plant strays from defined operating areas. 
  • Planned demolition sequence not followed. 
  • Work area slab not regularly inspected for signs of movement or new cracking, especially from underneath. 
  Use of explosives to weaken or topple main structure.  Person/s struck by debris flung out by blast. 
  • Insufficient technical skills (competency) to complete the required task. 
  • Planning, including method of demolition not approved by the appropriate Authority. 
  • Inadequate assessment of the structure and explosive technique to be used. 
  • Inadequate early warning. 
  • Inadequate blast absorption barriers. 
  • Inadequate exclusion zone for workers and the public. 
  • Worker/s stray into the blast area. 
  Falling debris or tools.  Person struck by falling objects. 
  • No barrier exclusion zone or size of the zone inadequate. 
  • Drop zones not barricaded and/or sign posted. 
  • Debris tipped from higher levels fall onto plant or persons below. 
  • Insufficient containment. 
  • Unauthorised persons enter the work area. 
  • Tool dropped by worker. 
  • Perimeter of the site not adequately secured with a combination of scaffold, wire mesh, fire retardant material, or hoardings. 
Use of hand held tools  Operating steel tipped tools e.g. jackhammer. Steel splinters flung out from shattered tool striking worker/s or pick punctures work boot. 
  • No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task. 
  • Jackhammer pick breaks or shatters. 
  • Pick worn or damaged. 
  • Jammed jackhammer resulting in loss of control. 
  • Loss of control due to constrained work area. 
  • Operator not trained in the use of the tool. 
  • Operator uses foot to guide jackhammer pick. 
  Operating chain saw. Saw kicks back causing blade to strike operators body. 
  • Equipment not adequately maintained. 
  • Operator not trained in the use of the tool. 
  • No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task. 
  • Loss of control due to constrained work area. 
  • Kickback brake not working. 
  Operating electric power saw or angle grinder.  Electric shock, burns or electrocution. 
  • Electrical equipment faulty. 
  • Extension lead faulty or damaged. 
  • Lead severed by power saw blade or disk. 
  • Earth Leakage Switch not installed on mains supply or portable generator. 
  Cutting with power saw or angle grinder.  Serious cuts from contact with saw blade or disk. 
  • Saw blade or grinder disk unguarded. 
  • Guard faulty. 
  • Saw blade or cutting disk damaged causing tool to catch and jump. 
  • Cutting disk badly worn – blade disintegrates. 
  • Wrong type of blade or cutting disk used. 
  • Grinder not fitted with 'Dead Mans' switch. 
  Sparks generated when using power saw or angle grinder to cut metal.  Fire causing burns. 
  • Work area not cleared of combustible material prior to cutting. 
  • 'Spotter' (additional worker) not used to watch for spot
  • Fires that may be caused by sparks. 
  • Fire extinguisher maintained or adjacent to work area. 
  • Workers not trained in the use of fire fighting equipment. 
  • No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task. 
  Cutting steel with Oxy Acetylene torch.

Burns to the body e.g. arms and legs. 

Damage to eyes. 

  • No PPE or incorrect PPE worn for the required task. 
  • Hot cut piece not constrained. 
  • Long guns (extended nozzles) not used for constrained work areas. 
  • Damage to hoses or equipment. 
  • No flashback arrester. 
  • Blow back from rust and concrete. 
Working at height  Working at height.  Fall e.g. from the edge or through a roof or from a boom lift. 
  • No edge protection. 
  • No harness or harness not secured. 
  • Harness anchorage incorrect. 
  • Climbing out of elevated boom lift. 
  • Fall through brittle roof. 
  • Standing on a destabilised roof after fixings have been removed in advance. 
  • Workers not trained in the use of safety equipment for working at heights 
  • Work not supervised to ensure correct procedures are followed. 
  • Use of a machine not considered where practicable. 
  Erecting ladders or working platforms near live power.  Electric shock, burns or electrocution. 
  • Working too close to live power lines. 
  • Ladder contacts power lines. 
  • Tiger Tails not in place on  power lines. 
  • Wind causes power lines to swing. 
  • Wind causes loss of control when erecting ladder. 
  Working from a ladder.  Fall from ladder. 
  • Ladder not tied off.  
  • Load capacity of ladder exceeded. 
  • Ladder failure due to physical damage or corrosion. 
  • Domestic ladder used instead of commercial. 
  • Ladder not positioned at correct angle. 
  Working from a platform.  Fall from platform. 
  • Incorrect assembly or different systems mixed together. 
  • Access ladders not positioned a minimum of 900 mm above the platform. 
  • Scaffold incorrectly constructed. 
  • Scaffold not adequately tied or braced. 
  • Platform not fully decked. 
  • Inadequate edge protection. 
  • Struck by plant or equipment. 
  • Struck by uncontrolled collapse of part of the structure or dislodged material.



Fact sheet
Last updated 20 May 2014

Last modified: