Commercial demolition contractors have to be concerned about safety or they risk losing their business licenses. They must follow the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when handling hazardous materials such as synthetic mineral fibers (SMFs), formaldehyde and lead paint. Demolition firms must also follow the standards for employee safety as regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which include protection from falls.

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Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is often used in wood products as a preservative to prevent rot. Wood dust that contains formaldehyde may pose a health hazard when inhaled, since it can cause nasal cancer. Carpenters and other contractors who cut manufactured wood products such as particle board and wood paneling are most likely to be exposed to formaldehyde. Face masks and respirators are the most common safety measure against formaldehyde.

Lead Paint

Lead paint is no longer used in residential construction, so only commercial demolishers should encounter it on a regular basis. Steel beams that have been coated with lead paint are particularly hazardous during demolition, since cutting such a beam with a plasma torch releases lead particles into the air. The concentration of airborne lead particles can therefore reach very high levels in demolition projects that involve steel beams. OSHA regulations require workers on these projects to use respirators and protective clothing. These workers must also wash their hands at regular intervals.

SMFs

Many construction materials are made from SMFs, including ceramics, fiberglass and rock wool. SMFs aren’t as hazardous as asbestos and are still used in commercial construction, primarily in products that provide heat and sound protection. The most common symptoms of exposure to SMFs irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, although some evidence also exists that these materials can cause lung cancer. The most common safety measures for SMFs are respirators, goggles and protective clothing.

Fall Protection

Protecting workers from falls is especially important for commercial demolition contractors, since this type of work routinely involves creating holes in walking surfaces. OSHA regulations generally require workers to wear full body restraints in areas that could result in a fall greater than six feet.

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