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Contractors World  - UK & Ireland
2013 Vol 3 No 6
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Safe, complex, high hazard decommissioning calls for expert co-ordination - page 3 of 6

Unlike building demolition, industrial works pose their own dangers through chemicals and  hazardous materialsGetting the right balance

Striking the optimum balance for the cleaning regime is a vital aspect of the work. Going beyond what is required can lead to avoidable operative exposure to hazards and unnecessary costs.

Unlike building demolition, industrial works pose their own dangers through chemicals and hazardous materials

Not going far enough and problems can arise during dismantling and waste disposal. The importance of getting this element of work fully documented and competently executed should not be underestimated.

The complexities of the Severnside project presented a number of additional challenges: the deployment of traditional dismantling techniques for example, was complemented by the controlled use of explosives to bring down the 100 metre tall Prill Manufacturing Tower, which once produced ammonium nitrate fertiliser pellets.

Speaking of the decision to use explosive engineering methods, RVA’s operations director Ian Wharton explained: “Constructed entirely from reinforced concrete the Prill Tower was tubular and supported by 12 concrete legs. The process vessels mounted at the top of the structure where accessed via an external lift shaft and attached staircase.

Too tall to demolish with conventional machinery

“It was too tall to demolish with conventional machinery and the alternative of manually dismantling it piece by piece would have necessitated operatives working at height for extended periods of time. The health and safety risks associated with such a labour intensive option were simply unacceptable. The fact that the 4,000 tonne tower has been in operational service for many years added to concerns.

“We knew that the controlled use of explosives was the safest way forward but the fact that the tower had been the production centre for ammonium nitrate fertiliser prills created an added hurdle to overcome.

“Ammonium nitrate can itself, under certain conditions, become an energetic substance and hence has a potential to explode.

If such a chemical residue was to be subjected to either significant impact – as would be experienced when the tower hit the ground during the demolition process – or was to come into contact with a heat source, there was a risk of secondary detonation and explosion.

“We, therefore, needed to eradicate any potential risks posed by the presence of ammonium nitrate, before a decision could be made.”

  This was done by:

  • Taking samples from the structure and surrounding floor slabs to assess the degree of contamination
  • Holding joint consultations between RVA’s explosives engineers and recognised experts to advise both in the properties of ammonium nitrate and theoretical explosives
  • Leading a series of hazard study workshops so that each party had a complete understanding of the issues involved and could bring together their specialist skills and knowledge to mitigate any remaining risks.

page 4 of 6



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