New modular debris frame devised to prevent scaffolding collapses

7 November 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

AR Demolition's modular debris frame in action

The managing director of a demolition contractor has invented a new modular debris protection frame that eliminates the need for scaffolding, following a series of high-profile scaffolding collapses.

Richard Dolman, managing director of AR Demolition and vice president of the Institute of Demolition Engineers, said the sector needed to consider new ways of dust suppression and protection from flying debris after there were three scaffolding failures in August alone in Reading, Liverpool and Nuneaton.

Dolman has devised a modular debris protection frame and has pioneered the use of blast mats – methods which the company has already used successfully on contracts in Nottingham and Cardiff over recent months.

Now he is calling on other contractors to embrace change and modernise, in order to increase levels of safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Dolman said: “For many years, I’ve never understood why people think is a good idea to fasten scaffolding to a building, then demolish the structure behind the scaffold using a machine.

“Scaffolding is useful if it’s used to take a building apart in reverse of how it was constructed, but I’ve never thought that it goes well with big machinery.

“It’s not even great for stopping dust because the minute you dissemble it, the dust goes everywhere. If there’s structural collapse, you’re in real trouble as the recent incidents show.

“Our modular frame system took six months to design and can be transported in sections and bolted together in a day. The mats hang off a crane or a demolition rig – they’re six metres wide, 15 metres high and act as shield to stop debris and dust. Only a few companies use it and as far as I know we’re the only one which uses an incorporated jet system to spray water back on to the work face.

“Both systems are very unusual but they work brilliantly – as long as used they’re used within the right application and well within an exclusion zone – and we’ll be using them on several jobs over the next few months.”

Richard Dolman

Dolman added that correct exclusion zones were crucial, with clients often pushing for small zones and not letting demolition contractors close footpaths or roads. He asked why, when in explosive demolition the exclusion zone has to be a radius three times as wide of the height of the structure, it was not the same case with non-explosive work.

He said: “Without scaffolding you don’t need people working at height, which as we all know is the biggest cause of serious injury throughout the construction industry.

“And scaffolding also gives the public a false sense of security, making people walk right next to a building being demolished rather than giving it a suitably wide berth.

“Let me emphasise that I’m not saying there is no place for scaffolding in demolition. There are occasions – mainly during floor-by-floor, very controlled, small-scale demolition – when it is the most appropriate method of dust suppression and protection against debris.

“I just think that there are better methods which should be more commonplace. My fellow contractors should embrace change, not be afraid of it.”

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