The plaintiff's estate, filed lawsuit for the death of a company official that was killed from a fall when the stairs collapsed in a building he was walking through to observe existing asbestos containing materials, in preparation to complete a bid. The plaintiff was killed instantly when a stairwell collapsed immediately when he started to descend it. His partner was following him and witnessed the unexpected and unfortunate event.
The plaintiff's safety expert asked for a copy of the pre-demolition engineering survey that should have been completed prior to any demolition activities. OSHA requires an engineering survey (Subpart T 1926.850) to be written and available to those who enter the site of the facility that is scheduled for demolition or renovation. The main purpose of the survey is to identify unsafe and unsound structures that may fail prior to any demolition activities. In this case, no written survey was completed of an old hospital that had been abandoned and was a target for vandals, thieves, and other trespassers for years. Had the survey been completed, the stairwell that collapsed from the plaintiff's weight should have been identified and barricaded to prevent access. Failure to complete the engineering survey is not uncommon, even on many large projects such as this one. Since many buildings scheduled for demolition have been idle and exposed to the weather for quite some time, building access can be extremely hazardous, especially for falls due to unsafe structures.
The survey, which has to be completed prior to any demolition activities, should be completed and made available prior to any admittance on the site. In addition, a site orientation, warning all parties of the dangers of unsound structures and other safety hazards, should required prior to any admittance of anyone, regardless of their purpose for entering the site. Also, all dangerous areas should be isolated with barricades and warning signs to not enter.
The case was settled in favor of the plaintiff. Had the defendant pursued the fact that the building owner and construction manager should have had an engineering survey completed and made available to all parties entering the site for bidding purposes the plaintiff would not have attempted to use the stairwell that collapsed. The survey, which has to be completed prior to any demolition activities, should be completed and made available prior to any admittance on the site and the unsafe areas should have been barricaded off and warning signs in place.
Jon Pina, MS, CSP, is a Safety, Health, & Environmental Expert. With more than thirty years experience in safety management, loss prevention, construction and demolition, coal, chemical, steel, and hazardous waste abatement, Mr. Pina can observe cases from a well-rounded viewpoint of a Safety and Health professional, construction manager, and "hands on" worker. Among his most notable accomplishments, he has held the position of Construction Manager on many large-scale demolition projects. He also has demonstrated expertise in areas such as the operation of chemical plants and gained field experience as a union journeyman pipe fitter.