The way demolition work is carried out has changed dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years. Safety has long been a concern for the demolition industry, which has been criticized for not doing enough to protect its workforce.
Due to the nature of the work, demolition projects can be dangerous, with old structures being dismantled and broken down on site. Falling objects in particular, as well as dust or hazardous materials used in the construction of older structures, pose a significant risk to those working on site.
In Europe and North America, stricter legislation covering work on site has improved the health and safety of demolition crews. At the same time, the phasing out of older crawler cranes equipped with wrecking balls and their replacement with improved excavators has increased productivity and safety. The older generation of crawler cranes was so noisy in operation that few operators can now use them effectively, while the newer hydraulic crawler cranes are less suited to the arduous demolition work. At the same time, the hit-or-miss nature of wrecking balls using cranes cannot be matched by the more specific operation of improved long boom excavators equipped with suitable demolition attachments.
Long Reach Boom Excavators
In terms of site safety and productivity, the long-reach excavator is a more effective and efficient tool for demolishing reinforced concrete structures than earlier machines. Long boom excavators are now widely used to demolish old multi-story car parks, motorway overpasses, and bridges that have reached the end of their service life.
In addition, manufacturers are beginning to offer enhanced excavators for the demolition market to work alongside long-arm machines. These units have cab guards and hose protection but are designed to provide support for long-reach machines, such as loading crushed material onto dump trucks or for secondary crushing.
Long boom excavators have evolved over time with features such as tilting cabs, cantilevered CCTV equipment, and additional protection to make the machines more comfortable and precise to use, as well as safer. The highly reinforced cab helps to improve operator safety by providing effective protection against falling objects. Telescopic boom extensions and interchangeable arms increase the versatility of the work and machine utilization.
Long Reach Excavators Booms
This evolution has continued and over time various manufacturers have partnered with specialists to build long-reach machines to the specific requirements of each customer. As certain machines may be purchased for specific contracts, certain features may be required to cope with site conditions or to meet the specific needs of the contractor. However, economies of scale in the niche market for highly specialized, long-reach excavators for dismantling are difficult to achieve for major manufacturers who are used to building excavators in high-volume production.
Accessories have also been improved and the contractor has a range of job-specific units to choose from, not only crushers but also shredders and cutters, which can also be rotated for increased versatility. As one of the manufacturers of long boom excavator attachments, Glikr Machinery offers a range of different units for specific demolition applications. Newer mountings also allow excavator operators to quickly switch from one attachment to another, thereby increasing versatility and availability. Better hydraulic systems offered by the latest generation of excavators can now provide more power to attachments for cutting, crushing, or shredding operations, while reducing leaks or hose failures than in past.
As demolition-specific machines have evolved, so have the industry's working practices. In the past, demolition contractors often opted for older excavators for crushing operations, citing the vibrations generated by the tools that could damage newer machines. The earlier hydraulic breakers were certainly less efficient and poorly damped than today, creating higher levels of vibration to the transporters and frequent hose failures, sometimes leading to cracking of the moving arm and bucket.
However, this approach also resulted in lower overall productivity due to the poorer performance of the older excavators used, which also broke down more frequently over the same operating cycle than the newer machines. But demolition contractors are now investing in their machines and choosing new excavators that are higher performing and better able to cope with the rigors of the work cycle. Training is also seen as key to providing an efficient and safe workplace. Skilled operators who can use long-arm excavators effectively are paid extra.