See you soon…

The DemolitionNews editorial office is now closed until 2 September 2019. Any enquiries between now and then should be directed to Chambers Media.

So many questions…

The report that echoed around the world.

It is less than a week since we published our preliminary report on the catastrophic scaffold collapse in Reading, and already the article has become our most-read and most-shared story of the past 12 months. Even though it was written to address a British incident and a British issue, we have been genuinely amazed to see the story spread across the demolition world. At last count, it had been read in an astonishing 61 countries.

Perhaps more remarkable is the many and varied views that it has generated. Although we have not yet received a single negative comment (remarkable in itself), it seems that everyone has taken something slightly different from the piece. Some focused upon the true purpose of scaffolding within a demolition environment; others chose to point out the fact that three incidents in a week had befallen members of the National Federation of Demolition Contractors.

My own personal takeaway, however, is the often unspoken use of sub-contractors to carry out work won by “premier league” contractors.

Now I have been around long enough to realise that the demolition and construction industry has more layers than a large onion. I realise that for every principal contractor there are dozens of specialist contractors and sub-contractors. Whether this is an efficient use of human resources, a “horses-for-courses” approach or merely an almighty administrative cluster-fuck waiting to happen, frankly, I will leave you to decide. But here’s my problem and, as always, I shall fall back upon a trusty football (soccer) analogy to make my point.

I make no secret of the fact that I support West Ham United (although after last weekend’s drubbing by a rampant Manchester City, I am seriously considering keeping my allegiance on the down-low in future). Now a ticket at the London Stadium will cost me somewhere in the region of £50. Spending that £50 and taking the trouble to get myself half-way across London brings with it certain expectations. When West Ham United take to the field, I expect to see Mark Noble wearing the captain’s arm band. I expect to see Lukasz Fabianski sporting the goalkeeper’s jersey. I expect to see Declan Rice looking composed beyond his years and giving a future-captain-of-England performance.

What I don’t expect is to see a team cobbled together from spare players from the nearby Dagenham & Redbridge, ably assisted by a couple of lads from the local pub that just happen to have both football boots and a replica West Ham kit.

Similarly, if I forked over £300 to see Barbara Streisand live in Hyde Park, I am going to be more than a little disappointed if a karaoke singer then takes to the stage wearing one of Babs’ frocks.

And it’s not just me that expects to get what I have paid for. It is not unusual for larger soccer clubs to be heavily fined for fielding a youth or second eleven team in order to protect their star players from injury ahead of a “more important” fixture.

I am sure you get the analogy here.

Now I realise that it is, perhaps, a little unkind to describe some of the specialist sub-contractors used by major demolition firms as a second eleven; as a karaoke singer in a designer dress. But if they are actually that good, why are they not competing for this work directly rather than feeding upon the scraps dropped from the big name contractors’ table? Why are they more adept at flying below the radar than the pilot of an F-117A Nighthawk?

Think about the implications of all this for a second. A big name demolition contractor has just jumped through pre-qualification hoops in order to be considered for the work. It is has then put together a detailed bid document that outlines its experience and expertise, the results of its most recent independent safety audits, and the tens of thousands of man hours it has clocked up without a reportable incident. Hell, the company has probably even made mention of the fact that it will be using its own fleet of brand-new and surgically-clean equipment and vehicles to deliver the project. And then when the contractor actually gets the green light, it palms off great chunks of the work to a company that has never undergone a safety audit, which will utilise its own equipment which may or may not be as clean and green as previously promised, and which flies so far below the radar that it doesn’t even have its own website.

A further thought has just occurred to me literally as I am writing this. Several times a year, the industry likes to pat itself on the back at one awards ceremony or another. Given what we all now know about the sub-letting of demolition contracts, are we certain that all of the awards handed out in years gone by were legitimate? Or have we applauded Company A when it was Company Z that actually did the work?

Now I know which side my bread is buttered and so I rarely (if ever) take the side of the client. But in this instance, I believe they would be right to question this practice. In fact, I think they would be crazy to do otherwise.

£300 to see Barbara Streisand roughly 30 years past her prime is bad enough. But £300 to see “Sandra from accounts” doing Woman in Love while wearing an outfit borrowed from Ms Streisand’s wardrobe is just taking the piss.

Demolition magazine – Issue #32

A parting gift from us to you!

By the time you get to see this, the offices of DemolitionNews.com will have closed for a two-week break in the sunshine. But we couldn’t leave you without some additional reading to get your teeth (eyes?) into. And so we are delighted to bring you the all-new Demolition magazine which is once again crammed to the rafters with everything you ever wanted to know about demolition but were afraid to ask.

We encourage you to read this edition for yourself. But there are a few specific highlights that we’d like to draw to your attention. These include a look at the HS2 project in the company of Erith Contractors, a visit to Greenwich with Sloane Demolition, an exclusive interview with the new president of the National Federation of Demolition Contractors, and an interview with Mitch Cowart of Caterpillar who is leading the fight against operator fatigue and distraction. YOu can can go straight to these articles by clicking the relevant links.

But far better to fetch yourself a warm beverage, kick off your shoes, sit back and enjoy the all-new Demolition magazine.

Comment – Didcot’s end draws closer…

…and why we won’t be showing it.

For some, it will mark the beginning of the end. For others, it will be merely the opening pages of a final chapter almost four years in the making; another painful reminder of an avoidable tragedy that unfolded to claim the lives of four working men back in February 2016.

In the early hours of 18 August, the remaining cooling towers that loom over the Didcot A Power Station site will be brought down in a controlled explosion by the team at Brown and Mason.
Although there is still the small matter of a large chimney to tackle later this autumn, Sunday’s implosion will further erase Didcot from the local skyline.

But it will do little to erase the memory of the boiler house collapse that claimed the lives of Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, Michael Collings, and Christopher Huxtable. For the families of those four men, this latest blast will merely stir up memories too horrible to contemplate. It will force them to relive a period of more than six months in which their loved ones lay undiscovered in the twisted wreckage of the partially collapsed boiler house. And it will mark a further development in a demolition process that has pressed ahead even while the investigation into the cause of the accident has dragged on endlessly and more painfully with each passing month.

It is to Brown and Mason’s credit that the company has chosen to carry out this latest blast in the early hours of the morning. This is not for public consumption. It is not a spectacle to plaster over social media. Rather, this is a further yet necessary desecration of a place where the lives of four working men were ended in an instant.

DemolitionNews.com will not be showing the blast for two key reasons.

The first reason is practical and logistical. When the team at Brown and Mason presses the button on Sunday, I will be bound for Cadiz in Spain without Internet access. The second reason is less easy to explain and is, I guess, purely emotional.

In July 2017, I chose not to broadcast the blast that felled the remaining portion of the stricken boiler house. After much consideration, I have chosen not to broadcast this one either. Like Lockerbie, Hungerford and a whole host of other places too long to list, the very name Didcot is now inextricably linked to a tragedy. I have no desire to draw Internet traffic based almost entirely upon infamy.

Of course, you will be able to watch it elsewhere. Given the media circus that has sprung up around Didcot, I am sure that the national and international TV channels will beam it live into your home if you so desire. I am certain that it will appear soon afterwards on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms.

I realise also that, by refusing to broadcast it, DemolitionNews will likely miss out on thousands and possibly tens of thousands of views; the very views that are the lifeblood of our platform.

But on 23 February 2016, four men paid the ultimate price for their presence within the UK demolition industry. By comparison, the loss of a few thousand views from semi-interested parties seems like a very small price to pay.

Jobs – Demolition Services on recruitment drive…

Experienced asbestos removal operatives required.

Demolition Services are currently recruiting skilled and experienced asbestos removal operatives and supervisors for a long-term project in Telford, West Midlands.

Applicants should be experienced in all aspects of asbestos removal and hold full training cards, have a valid medical and face fit test certificates for maximum rates of pay.

In order to be considered for the role, please send all of the above documents along with a current CV to steve@demolitionservices.co.uk

Car park raises police fears

Police station evacuated amidst demolition of multi-storey car park.

Local newspapers in Lancashire are reporting that an emergency evacuation has taken place of an East Lancashire police station – amid safety concerns for a four-storey car park.

Contractors are said to have sounded the alarm over the condition of Pendle Rise in Nelson. And police chiefs have confirmed that their station in Broadway, located directly underneath the structure, has been cleared.

It is understood that the concerns centred on a leaning outside wall, positioned between the car park and police station.

Work on the demolition of the car park, ahead of an anticipated new McDonald’s restaurant, is understood to have only just resumed after being put on ice for several weeks.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We were called around 7am today by site contractors demolishing a car park next to the police station. “The contractors have raised safety concerns about the structure of the car park and the station has been evacuated as a precaution.”

DemolitionNews understands that, although the machine pictured belongs to D Hughes, the principal contractor on the project is, in fact, Connolly Evans. The D Hughes high reach was brought in on hire to help make the structure safe.

This incident comes just 24 hours after DemolitionNews highlighted concerns over car park demolition methodologies in this exclusive report.

You can read more on the incident in Nelson here.

Two of three toppled…

Explosive end for two of three towers.

Pacific Blasting & Demolition Ltd has completed the controlled demolition of two 90 metre tall surge towers at the John Hart Dam near Campbell River, British Columbia.

German cooling tower dropped…

Cameras capture smooth fall of massive power station cooking tower.

The cooling tower at one of Germany’s former nuclear power stations has been demolished, more than 30 years after it went off-line.

The Muelheim-Kaerlich plant near Koblenz opened in 1987 but was closed the next year because of fears over earthquakes.

At least we’re not this bad…

India sees the UK’s three scaffold collapses and raises them.

Amidst all the hand-wringing that followed a week in which three separate UK demolition contractors dropped three separate piles of scaffold onto three separate UK streets, good ol’ Blighty can at least take some solace from the fact that we’re not quite as bad as the demolition contractor responsible for this minor incursion onto a road in Bhagal, India:

Reading Collapse – Preliminary Report

This is NOT our usual content. Please take the time to read it.

Regular readers will know that one of our greatest sources of frustration and annoyance is the time it takes to investigate an accident and to then publish the findings of that investigation.

So, wWhile the dust was still settling at the Reading collapse, DemolitionNews.com commissioned an independent demolition engineer to explore the possible causes of that accident. (Little did we realise that by the time the report was finished, the UK demolition industry would have suffered not one but TWO more high profile scaffold collapses.)

The resulting report offers a never-seen-before insight into modern demolition methodologies and lays bare a huge number of factors that may have contributed to the first and – quite possibly – the second and third scaffold collapses.

This report, which is exclusive to DemolitionNews.com, is probably the most important industry document that you are likely to read this year. So please, CLICK HERE to read it for yourself.