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Planning to fail? It's far from a joke

Whenever my colleague Mike Kehoe or myself are asked to do a presentation on the need for planning on demolition projects, we always discuss the importance of including the ‘what if it goes wrong?’ element.

The audience reaction is always the same: ‘Plan to fail? You must be joking.’

So why is it that we don’t consider the ‘what if’?

Is it because we are confident that we can do it right first time? Is it that we believe we are well-trained and competent, and therefore nothing will go wrong? Or is it that we haven’t even considered the possibility?

When getting involved in a demolition project of any size, the first questions we always consider are: what is the worst thing that could happen, and what will we do if that situation does arise.

I recommend that all clients, principal contractors and demolition contractors do the same, so that if things do go awry we have a headstart in putting things right.

Thinking things through

For example, you have won a contract to machine-demolish a motorway bridge under a road closure and your main machine and attachment breaks down at 2am.

If you have planned for this to happen, you will have parts and a fitter on site ready to work and you may have another machine waiting in the wings that you can move into position.

However, without that planning you could have a lot of explaining to do as to why that motorway is not open as agreed, and why you should not be charged a small fortune in lane rental for the failure.

Another example might involve your firm digging below ground and striking a water main.

You may think you just turn it off. But do you know where to turn it off and what it supplies? You could be looking at no water for a whole housing estate and a hospital and maybe a major flood into an underground car park that contains a dozen Ferraris.

Far-fetched? Not really – this actually happened in Los Angeles recently.

Every day thinking

Does this planning just apply to site? Of course not.

You should consider if your computer is backed up every day to an external hard drive and if that hard drive is protected against a fire in your offices.

Please look at your planning and consider extending that planning to cover a few things that may not happen, but could happen very easily.

John Woodward is the owner of C&D Consultancy and a former president of the Institute of Demolition Engineers

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