Unite launches silica register

Union takes action on silica dust exposure.

The UK’s largest union – Unite – has taken steps to reduce the risk of exposure to silica dust and to make it easier for those exposed to make a claim.

Inhaling large amounts of silica dust over a long period of time can cause a number of serious respiratory diseases and fatal illnesses including silicosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis (in those with silicosis) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Silica is a natural substance found in most rocks, sand and clay. It’s typically used as a constituent of construction materials such as bricks, tiles, concrete and mortar. Silica dust is also produced when cutting, grinding, drilling, polishing and disturbing materials that contain crystalline silica particles.

Silica is the biggest risk to construction workers and people who work in industries using silica flour to manufacture goods. Employers can limit workers’ exposure to silica dust by providing them with adequate protective equipment and training to protect them from harm at work.

Unite’s legal services team will fight to secure compensation on your behalf. As a Unite member, you will keep 100% of your damages and won’t pay a penny in legal fees. Contact Unite Legal Services to make your claim.

Read more here, or view the infomative video below:

Reading repercussions begin…

Unite union calls for full investigation into accident that injured three.

In the immediate aftermath of last week’s major scaffold collapse in Reading, the demolition industry rumour mill switched ito hyperdrive. The names of various demolition contractors were bandied about as the main contractor on the site, and even more reasons for the collapse were put forward by some in the know, and some that were merely guessing.

While the cause remains clouded in mystery, the name of the main demolition contractor has been confirmed as McGee. And it appears that McGee will likely face the full force of an investigation that is being called for by the UK’s largest union, Unite.

The union, which represents construction workers, said an inquiry into the incident at a demolition site in Reading town centre was “essential” in order to learn lessons.

Unite national officer Jerry Swain said: “A full inquiry must not just include the immediate reasons for the scaffolding collapse but also examine whether the work had been sub-let, were all the workers on site properly employed, and did they all have the appropriate skills and training. It is essential that we learn the lessons from this accident to prevent similar serious incidents in the future.”

A McGee spokesperson told industry website Construction Inquirer: “We can confirm there has been an incident today at one of our sites in Reading. We are investigating and will provide further updates when facts are available.”

Comment – An industry tarnished

Millions of man hours without incident. But the public will know us for this.

All the meetings, seminars and conferences. All the training courses, CPD points, toolbox talks and site inductions. All the advances in equipment and technology. All the supposed benefits of site audits and Health & Safety Executive policing. All the strides made to make demolition sites safer, cleaner and generally better. All the demolition projects and man hours clocked up without incident.

All of that and so much more, gone in an instant.

When the scaffolding collapsed at a demolition site in Reading yesterday morning, it wasn’t just steel and timber that fell. It was the reputation of the entire industry. A reputation that so many work so hard and for so long to build and to protect, tarnished in an instant.

There can be few industries in the world that are cursed with such an unerring knack of taking three steps forward before turning round and kicking itself squarely, brutally and repeatedly in the balls. If the global demolition industry had a mantra, it would be “proud, proud, proud, proud, embarrassed, proud, proud, proud, ashamed, proud, proud…”

The demolition community responds with dismay and outrage when Channel 5 has the temerity to run a television programme entitled “When Demolition Goes Wrong”. Yet that same demolition community seems intent on providing a bottomless source of grist for the TV producers’ mill.

At the time of writing, there has been a stony silence from the various contractors and sub-contractors that will have had a stake in the contract. The silence has been equally deafening from the trade associations allied to this industry of ours.

Both the Health & Safety Executive and Thames Valley Police issued statements while the sirens were still blaring and while there were still fears that pedestrians might be trapped beneath the tangled mess of fallen scaffolding. Their silence begins now.

As we saw in the aftermath of the Didcot A Power Station tragedy, this whole sorry business will now be placed in the health and safety equivalent of Room 101 before being placed on public display for the world to see as part of a court case and prosecution in four, five or ten years’ time or when the HSE sees fit, whichever is the sooner.

Air travel is said to be the safest mode of transport, yet we can each point to a plane crash or disaster that seemingly disproves that claim. The demolition industry today is safer than at any time in its history. But the public – and that public, let us not forget, includes potential and existing clients – will point to yesterday’s collapse in Reading as further evidence that demolition is as hazardous, risky and downright dangerous as it ever was.

And so continues the endless and vicious circle that follows each accident and incident. It is a circle that will remain unbroken so long as the industry is willing to stand idly by and have its reputation hauled through the mud every few months.

There are alternatives, of course. UK demolition contractors could be licensed and those that are involved in incidents such as this could have their licenses suspended temporarily while investigations continue, and revoked entirely if they are found negligent. Those same demolition contractors could be censured by the trade bodies that sit atop this industry of ours. Memberships could be temporarily revoked; and prompt and meaningful statements on the likely cause of any such incident could be demanded.

None of this will happen, of course. Thanks to a Health & Safety Executive investigation regime that works with all the haste of coastal erosion, this and other incidents will be placed in Room 101 and largely forgotten about. The mass media will have moved on by early next week; sooner if new Prime Minister Boris Johnson does or says anything stupid between now and then. The demolition industry will go back to work, thankful that the incident didn’t happen on their site.

So at some point in the next few weeks, few months or few years, we will all find ourselves back here once again. Another accident will have happened. Explanations will not be forthcoming. Censure and punishment will take years. And all the while, the demolition industry will return to its mantra: “proud, proud, proud, proud, embarrassed, proud, proud, proud, ashamed…”

CDI at the double…

CDI blasts its way across the US.

Some demolition professionals may work a lifetime without ever being involved in an explosive demolition event. Some demolition companies might be lucky enough to see an implosion up close, even if they’re not involed, directly or otherwise.

But for Controlled Demolition Inc (CDI), implosions seem to come along with such regularity that – if you take your eye off the ball for a second – they will have carried out not one but TWO new blasts in a week.

So, partly to prove that I was paying attention after all, and partly to satisfy the demands of our friend and online conscience, Russ Gardiner, here’s the two latest CDI blasts in all their glory:

Breaking News – Scaffold collapse in Reading

Members of the public feared trapped as scaffold collapses on demolition site in Reading.

Two people have been injured and more are feared trapped after a major scaffold collapse at Greyfriars House in Reading, Berkshire.

Witnesses reported hearing “lots of shouting and running away after a sudden crash” as scaffolding at around 11.15 am local time. Hundreds of scaffolding boards and poles were said to have ‘tumbled to the ground’ in a huge cloud of debris.

A South Central Ambulance Service spokesperson said initial 999 calls suggested people were under the rubble.

Emergency services are now using thermal imaging equipment to search the debris.

One person is currently being treated at the scene with a head injury. A second is being treated for chest pains.

Long goodbye at Longannet

Brown and Mason carries out latest in series of blasts.

Longannet Power Station is not going out with a bang. It is going out with a series of them, as power station demolition specialist Brown and Mason carry out yet another successful implosion at the now retired power plant.

Calling the “Thought Leaders”

Time to take a step back in order to look forward.

Many moons ago, back when I still believed that wordsmithery might hold the key to my fame and fortune, I met with a business consultant. Much of what he said was nonsense; advice regurgitated from some source or another that he would trot out regardless of whether you were a freelance journalist (as I was), a demolition contractor, or a manufacturer of meat-free dog treats.

However, he did insist that – at the time – I spent “too much time working in my business, and not enough time working ON my business”. More than 30 years later, and even though my aspirations for unimaginable riches have given way to a barely-scraping-by resignation, it is a low-level crime that I continue to commit on a regular basis. And I fear I am not alone.

If you work within the demolition industry, much of your time is spent getting paid for what you did in the recent past or multiple ball juggling to ensure that you remain on top of the present. The likelihood is that you will have precious little time for any kind of meaningful crystal ball gazing into the medium to long term future. All too often, demolition is a hand-to-mouth existence in which the needs of the present outweigh any aspirational planning for the future.

How then will the industry make its next big leap? How will it make the Nokia 3310 to iPhone advances that will prepare it for the needs and demands of clients, legislators and the world in general in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time?

What the industry needs are “thought leaders”; individuals that can take a step back from all we currently know, to look ahead to what might be, and to set a course to take us there.

I am ill-equipped to take up that mantle. For one thing, I don’t work IN demolition; I work in a separate but parallel universe that is slightly less dusty and where coffee and biscuits are readily available.

However, what I lack in real demolition experience, I make up for in two key areas.

Firstly, and if I say so myself, I occasionally deliver a deft turn of phrase; my spelling is pretty good, my grammar is just the right side of average; and I am not afraid to stand up even if it means being shot at or shot down.

Secondly, I have a GLOBAL audience. More than 60,000 people log onto DemolitionNews.com each month. Factor in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, and we have a reach of well over a quarter of a million people around the world. When DemolitionNews speaks, those people are ready, willing and able to listen.

So I am calling upon the thought leaders to make yourselves heard. I don’t care whether you’re an operative who has identified a fundamental flaw in demolition procedure; an excavator operator that has been developing a safer and more efficient methodology; an equipment manufacturer that has secretly solved an unspoken problem; or a director, manager or consultant that has what it takes to make this industry better in some way.

In short, we are throwing open our doors and welcoming in those that want to make a difference; those that wish to shape the industry in the future. Our audience is your audience. I want your ideas to appear in print, to appear online and to appear on video and in audio formats. I want to be invited to your place of work and to industry seminars to share these ideas and notions with the wider industry.

To set the ball rolling (and despite my lack of qualifications to do so) I have put pen to paper on the first of what I hope to be a series of thought leadership articles.

It is called Evolution turns to Revolution and you can read it here.

I have more planned; some are partially written in my head – I am hoping that my summer holiday will allow me to focus upon these ideas and to develop these concepts even more fully.

I sincerely hope that you like the first article and that – regardless of how good your spelling and grammar – that you will drop me a line to share YOUR big idea.

First fall at Ferrybridge

First cooling tower felled in controlled blast.

UK demolition giant Keltbray has carried out the first of a number of controlled implosions to fell one of the famous cooling towers at Ferrybridge Power Station.

Stubborn stack stays upright…

Three out of four ain’t bad. It ain’t great either!

The remnants of more than 50 years of coal-generated power production in Moapa came crashing down in a huge cloud of dust last week. Most of what was left of the Reid Gardner Power Station was imploded.

Demolition crews contracted by Reid Gardner owner NV Energy, initiated a final countdown at around 7:30 pm local time. They then ignited explosive charges meant to bring down the boiler structures of Units 1-3 and all four smoke stacks at the decommissioned plant.

But all did not go entirely according to plan. The smokestack for Unit 4, the largest and tallest of the structures, teetered slightly in the explosion, but remained standing. When the dust had cleared, the approximately 250-foot-tall structure was the only implosion target left standing, though it was leaning slightly northward.

“The demolition contractor is still doing an evaluation to determine the condition of the structure,” said NV Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht in an interview Friday morning. “They did determine that the explosives all detonated. Now they are doing an assessment on what needs to be done next.”

Preparations for the implosion were extensive and took months. Since early in 2018, demolition contractor Remedial Construction Services (RECON) has been systematically dismantling the coal burning plant which was decommissioned in February 2017. They had torn out all the concrete, wiring, steel, fixtures, auxiliary buildings and anything else that was not necessary to give structural support to the huge boilers at the heart of the four units.

Read more here.

Sellafield boost for demo firms

Clean-up programme extended to 2026.

Industry news portal The Construction Enquirer is reporting that Sellafield has extended contracts to 2026 with seventeen firms it selected three years ago to deliver its £500 million clean-up programme in Cumbria. That announcement will be welcome news to the handful of UK demolition companies that stand to gain from the extended programme.

So far the six alliances and joint ventures on the Decommissioning Delivery Partnership have delivered £385m worth of work and recorded 4.5m hours without a lost-time accident.

The future pipeline projects include completing demolition of the infamous 110m tall Windscale pile chimney, scene of Britain’s worst nuclear accident, and clearing land and removing the heat exchangers around the redundant Calder Hall reactors and turbine halls.

This work will be carried out by several joint-venture companies:

  • Integrated Decommissioning Solutions (comprising Atkins, Altrad Hertel, North West Projects, Westlakes Engineering and Inglenorth)
  • Nexus Decommissioning Alliance (Costain, Mott Macdonald, Nuvia, Squibb Group)
  • ADAPT (Orano, Doosan, Atkins and Keltbray)
  • Cumbria Nuclear Solutions (Jacobs, React, James Fisher Nuclear, Shepley Engineers, Westinghouse, WYG Engineering and JBV Demolition).

Read more here.