Dealing with danger

Columns - Editor’s Focus

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March 2, 2021

There is no such thing as a “safe” job in demolition. Because of the presence of heavy machinery, and the nature of felling buildings and related structures, every job comes with inherent risk. However, there is one job that stands out among the rest as presenting unique challenges for contractors—power plant demolition.

As coal-fired power plants across the country increasingly reach the end of their service life, opportunities abound for demolition professionals tasked with decommissioning and demolishing these structures.

Power plant work is attractive due to the detailed scope of work and nuances involved with the job, equating to significant man-hours and dollars for those able to win the job. However, the age of these facilities, variances between sites, and the complexity of taking down hung boilers combine to make these projects uniquely precarious from a demolition contractor’s point of view.

Over the last 12 years, there have been 12 power plant demolition deaths in the U.S., plus five more in the U.K.

But after two more fatalities occurred at an Ohio power plant in December 2020, the industry doesn’t appear content to stand pat in favor of the status quo in 2021.

In this issue’s cover story, we profile several industry leaders who have stepped up to sound the call for better power plant safety and accountability.

Joe Vendetti, the senior vice president of industrial services at Integrated Demolition and Remediation Inc., and Tim Barker, D4 program manager at AECOM, share their unique insights gleaned from a combined 60 years in the industry and offer common causes of these accidents and best practices for preventing such incidents in the future.

Additionally, National Demolition Association (NDA) Executive Director Jeff Lambert and NDA President Christopher Godek discuss forthcoming changes the association is making to help advance power plant demolition certification and compile a comprehensive body of knowledge to better educate contractors, owners, general contractors and other industry participants on necessary steps for safer demolition practices.

Old ways of doing business may be hard to break, but if there is a hope to reduce the number of contractor fatalities at power plants, the current measures being taken by the industry are going to be the first steps in changing the future of the industry.

Read “A call to action” on page 12 to see what actions the industry is taking to improve power plant demolition safety.