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L'înformâtion et les sèrvices publyis pouor I'Île dé Jèrri

Demolition: health hazards

Demolition works may expose you to health hazards such as lead and silica and microbiological hazards such as rats and pigeons, as well as the more obvious risks associated with this type of work.

​​​Dem​​​olition and your health – are you at risk?​​​

Demolition workers may be exposed to a number of different hazards as a result of their work.

These include:

  • silica dust
  • lead
  • noise
  • asbestos
  • vibration

These hazards can arise from activities such as:

  • crushing concrete
  • handling lead-containing materials
  • compressors
  • hand-held concrete breakers

Your ​employer’s responsibilities​​​

Your employer has a general duty under Article 3 of the Health and Safety at Work (Jersey) Law 1989 to protect your health so far as is reasonably practicable.

Your employer must assess any work which you are going to carry out and should make sure that you are provided with adequate information, safe systems of work and where appropriate, personal protective equipment.

The assessment should be before the work starts, although it is possible that some unexpected hazards may come to light during the works.

Download guidance on risk assessment (size 495kb)
Download guidance on noise in the construction industry (size 411kb)

Lead an​d silica​

Lead​​​

Lead-based materials are often salvaged during demolition operations. A number of materials contain lead, including pipe work, slates and flashing.

If you carry out any of the following activities, then you may be at risk of being exposed to lead if proper precautions are not taken:

  • hot cutting of material coated in lead paint
  • handling lead-based materials

How it affects you

Lead can enter the body by:

  • breathing in lead dust, fume or vapour
  • swallowing lead when you eat, drink, smoke or bite your nails without washing your hands and face

If the level of lead in your body becomes too high it can cause:

  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • irritability
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • stomach pains
  • anaemia
  • loss of weight

If you are working with lead and experience any of these symptoms, you must tell your employer at once.

What you should do

If you are working with any lead-based materials, then you should:

  • adopt safe working practices laid down by your employer
  • wear any necessary protective equipment provided by your employer
  • practise a high standard of personal hygiene. Wash your hands and face and scrub your nails before eating, drinking or smoking and before you go home

Silica

Silica is a very common substance and is usually in the form of crystalline silica, which is found in a wide range of rock types, minerals and other materials, including concrete.

You may be at risk of being exposed to fine silica dust if proper precautions are not taken when you carry out any of the following processes on concrete or other materials which may contain silica:

  • breaking up
  • cutting
  • grinding
  • crushing

How it affects you

Silica can enter the body by breathing in silica dust.

Exposure to silica dust can cause silicosis which damages your lungs, making it difficult to breath and increasing your risk of lung infections.

What you should do

If you are working with materials which may contain silica, then you should:

  • adopt safe working practices laid down by your employer
  • wear any necessary protective equipment provided by your employer

Microbiological hazard​

If you work in demolition, then you may be exposed to a number of different microbiological hazards at different times throughout your work.

Typical hazards include:

  • pigeons (psittacosis)
  • rats (leptospirosis)
  • used needles (eg hepatitis B/ HIV)
  • horsehair plaster (anthrax)
  • sewage (tetanus)

Exposure to many of these hazards can be prevented by using simple precautions such as:

  • wearing masks and protective clothing
  • covering cuts and abrasions
  • practising a good standard of hygiene

Two common microbiological hazards are:

Rats

Exposure to rats, rat urine or contaminated water can lead to a disease called leptospirosis (or Weil’s disease) which has flu-like symptoms with a persistent and severe headache.

The bacteria can enter your body through cuts and scratches and through the lining of the mouth, throat and eyes.

If you need to clear rat carcasses or work in areas where rats are likely to have been present, then you should:

  • cover all cuts and scratches with waterproof plasters
  • wear protective clothing, including gloves
  • wash your hands after handling anything which may be contaminated, especially before eating, drinking or smoking

Pigeons

Clearing pigeon droppings, carcasses and so forth, can give rise to a number of health issues including psittacosis, pigeon fanciers lung and salmonella. Certain individuals may also develop sensitisation.

Recommended precautions include:

  • wearing overalls
  • respiratory protective equipment to P2 or P3 standard
  • eye protection
  • gloves
  • good hygiene procedures

The system of work should involve dampening down of the droppings to reduce dust (but not to the extent that they become water logged) and shovelling up droppings. Disinfectant can also be used.

Although ammonia may be released from the droppings, it should not reach levels which are concerning to health unless work is carried out in a confined space.

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