It is a standing joke in demolition circles just how little Joe Public and the wider world of media know about this sector of ours. The great unwashed are convinced that demolition crews pitch up uninvited and unannounced to demolish properties to which they have some emotional attachment. TV reporters insist that all demolition work is carried out by wrecking balls or bulldozers, even though they’re generally stood in front of a hydraulic excavator when delivering their “informed” report. And just about everyone outside the industry believes that demolition is dangerous; that it has a negative impact upon the environment; and that accidents and deaths are just an everyday occurrence.
I was reminded of this twice this past week during a pair of back-to-back (yet unassociated) meetings with otherwise intelligent individuals that work very close and almost in the demolition business.
They were astounded when I told them that a UK demolition contractor considers a 98 percent recycling rate to be a normal day at the office. They were shocked to learn that the industry has an exemplary safety record in which the downward trend in accidents and fatalities is almost permanently in a downward trajectory. And they were disbelieving when I told them that around 50 times more people in the UK were killed falling out of bed than were killed on UK demolition sites last year.
Whose fault is that ignorance? Well certainly the global media don’t help. The only time TV companies turn their spotlight and cameras onto demolition is either for a high profile implosion or in the wake of an accident. And even documentary makers that are seemingly working “with” the industry are all too quick to play up the perceived peril in the final edit.
But surely we must shoulder most of the blame for this widespread and perpetual ignorance. As an industry, we have an entrenched tendency to operate in silos, speaking amongst ourselves rather than to the wider world. Our conferences, seminars and exhibitions are generally (and understandably) inward looking. Our occasional brushes with the national media either as part of a high profile implosion that perpetuates the perception that we “blow shit up”, or a back-foot defence when something has gone awry.
So the next time you mention to a non-industry person that you work in demolition and then spend the next 20 minutes listening to them talk about Fred Dibnah, Las Vegas hotel blasts and “that accident that was on the telly” just remember: We have no-one but ourselves to blame for this ongoing ignorance.