Just over two weeks ago, the organising committee of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow announced plans to demolish five tower blocks as the centrepiece of the opening ceremony in July.
But on Sunday 13th April, the organisers reversed their decision, claiming the health and safety risks posed by such a large demolition were too high.
15 seconds of destruction
For almost 50 years the Red Road tower blocks have dominated the Glasgow skyline, housing up to 4000 people at a time. At 30 storeys tall, the development was once home to the highest flats in Europe.
But five of the six towers were due to be demolished in a 15-second ‘celebration’ of Glasgow city’s renewal.
Health and Safety considerations
‘Imploding’ tall structures always carries an element of risk, mainly as a result of flying debris that can cause fatal injury and damage to surrounding structures. The Red Road plan originally called for the evacuation of 887 nearby homes and the creation of a large exclusion area surrounding the site to ensure the safety of residents.
Having already successfully demolished one of the Red Road tower blocks back in June 2012, it is clear the Glasgow City Council and their contractors Safedem are fully aware of the potential dangers associated with explosive demolition. Neither contractors nor any members of the public were injured in that project.
Demolitions on the big stage
With so much public anger and the world’s attention focused on five tower blocks, there are some additional health and safety concerns to consider. Global events are often magnets for protestors, increasing the number of people in the area and thereby raising the risk of something going wrong.
And where protestors are mingling with spectators there is also the potential for crowd-related health and safety issues. Managing a large crowd and the simultaneous demolition of five tower blocks is a major undertaking.
The Red Road project raises important questions for other businesses involved in high profile demolition projects:
- How can we increase safety for workers and members of the public who are in the vicinity of the site?
- What additional security measures are required to protect the public and ensure that exclusion zones are respected?
- What is the best way to address protestors in the crowd? How can we adjust plans in the event that someone breaches security and enters the site?
- What are the contingency plans should demolition need to be postponed? How can the site be made safe in the interim?
Was cancellation really due to health and safety concerns?
Ultimately the demolition of these particular tower blocks is no more or less dangerous than any other similar exercise. But with more than 17,000 people registering their objection to the plan, citing health and safety concerns may have been a convenient excuse to shelve it and retain political favour.
Whether or not the televised demolition goes ahead, the five blocks in question will still be imploded – and the same health and safety considerations will need to be addressed then too.