This Week in Demolition Can experience be counter-productive...?

It is a recognised fact among charitable organisations that even the most kind-hearted people tend to support causes closest to them. Sure there is an outpouring of public support in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake or tsunami in some far-flung corner of the globe. But, in the main, charity begins (and often ends) at home.

And while we’re not a charity, we have been equally guilty of such a narrow focus. During the past year, we were so caught up in the tragic events that unfolded at the Didcot A Power Station that we largely overlooked four significant industry deaths that have had an enormous and far-reaching impact upon the US demolition sector.

The four men that were killed all died in separate accidents. Those accidents were unconnected, as were the men themselves. But what they shared was a common bond of demolition and a combined industry expertise of something like 135+ years.

According to our sources, Jim Parisella had notched up 33 years in demolition before he was killed this week. John Adamo had 37 years demolition experience under his belt. David Smaniotto was a 36 year industry veteran. And William “Bill” Coleman was 35 years into his demolition career when he died.

In a year in which celebrity deaths have come thick and fast, maybe the deaths of four such notable demolition men in such quick succession really is just a tragic coincidence. I cannot imagine a scenario in which four such experienced demolition men were suddenly and simultaneously struck down with complacency.

So is there something else at work here? Does experience and reputation somehow influence those around in a negative manner?

Over the past year or so, I have been taking my son Fred to sites the length and breadth of the UK because he has proven – repeatedly – to be a far better photographer than me. Both of us sit through the usual safety briefings and inductions that are part and parcel of a site visit these days. But I have certainly noted a difference in tone. Most of these inductions seem aimed mainly at Fred, 21 years old, long haired and still wet behind the ears. Meanwhile, my induction normally begins with the words “I’m sure you’ve heard all this hundreds of times before…”

There is no evidence to suggest that the experience of each of these four industry veterans contributed to some “slacking off” of safety procedures around them. But certainly my recent experience suggests that with age comes a certain misplaced presumption of immunity to accidents.

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