Demolition 2017: Similar but different

Demolition 2017: Similar but different

Demolition contractors from the U.S. and Europe compare notes at NDA’s annual convention.

February 14, 2017
Kristin Smith
Demolition contractors in the U.S. and Europe may perform similar jobs, but the requirements vary. During the Demolition 2017 Convention & Expo held in late January in Las Vegas, speakers from both sides of the pond discussed those differences. The panel included members from the three of the main industry associations representing demolition contractors on the two continents: Scott Knightly, then vice president, National Demolition Association (NDA) (he was later appointed president), Washington; William Sinclair, president, European Demolition Association (EDA), Madrid; and Martin Wilson, president, National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC), Hemel Hempstead, United Kingdom.


Martin first discussed how members of the NFDC go through “a very ardous process” to become members. They must have a minimum of five years in the trade with assurances accounts. “In addition to NFDC we have industry service providers,” he said. These are the companies that supply equipment to the industry.  

Sinclair said across Europe audit systems are in place to qualify contractors whose core business is demolition.

Knightly acknowledged, “The states are a little bit different. We look at liability, if we have standards, will it come back to the association?” Establishing a best practices document or a limited liability company to manage such standards would be a difficult process, he said, noting the sheer volume of work and the geographic area that would need to be covered.

About the liability issue, Martin said the onus is on the contractor in the eyes of the NFDC. “That tragedy falls onto the shoulders of the contractor carrying out the work,” he said. “Ultimately it is how you design things in the first place,” he advised Knightly.

Bill Moore, principal consultant for Indianapolis-based ERM, moderated the panel discussion and asked what the industry is doing to attract new workers to the demolition industry.

Knightly said the industry has not done a good job promoting it to millennials that there are ways to move up through the ranks and have a lucrative career – that its not just shovels and sledgehammers, there is an opportunity to use engineering skills. He also said bringing salaries up might help, but it is still a competitive market where the low bid wins.

Martin pointed out an existing skills shortage in the U.K. and it has become an area of focus for the NFDC. Apprenticeships are one way the association is working to bring young people back into the industry. He also expressed concerns about Brexit. Prior to the vote to leave the European Union there was worry that it would take the U.K. 10 years to get a trade deal on board again with the rest of Europe. “They did it last week,” he reported. “One thing we may lose will be European nationals to take employment.”

He said as a federation, the NFDC needs to engage the government and lobby its cause so it can keep these workers from other European countries.

Sinclair pointed out that Europe is just coming out of “the most depressed 10 years in its existence. Industrywide, he says, “the onus is on us to demonstrate to the outside word, we are professional, skilled and a career path. Look around look at the plant look at the equipment. We are a professional organization we should shout about it!”

Martin said in terms of training, EDA has developed guidance notes in many fields available to the public and free to members, including high reach excavators.

At one point, William Sinclair’s father David, who was in the audience, offered to share with the NDA for free some 40 years worth of training materials available that have been developed in Europe.

Demolition 2017 was Jan. 29-31 at The Mirage, Las Vegas.