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Building Relationships Through Education

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‘Where Demolition Professionals Build Relationships.’ The National Demolition Association, the leading association representing businesses in the North American demolition industry, is certainly clear in its messaging and intent. It is a tagline that sets itself out distinctly and leaves little to ambiguity. However, as with businesses throughout the construction world, the nature of these relationships can be as diverse and innovative as necessary. Strikingly, there is considerably more to those involved in demolition than may initially meet the eye. In fact, the demolition industry itself can, on occasion, be misinterpreted. Unfortunately, the misconception persists that the industry is populated with “the guys who blow things up.” It is no surprise then, to learn that a vital pillar of the work being done by the NDA is to shine a light on the multifaced work and relationships that are built across the industry each day.

Founded in 1973, the Association’s founders felt that gaps in information, promotion and protection were an unfortunate aspect of the industry and set out to rectify many of the challenges that its members were facing. According to Executive Director of NDA, Jeff Lambert, the driving forces behind setting up the association were numerous. “They wanted to develop an organization that would assure fair dealing with the public and clients, to correct injurious, discriminatory, or unfair business practices in the demolition industry and to promote the organization as the primary source of information about the demolition process. They envisioned a place where professionals could network create and share best practices and promote safety and environmental stewardship on the jobsite.”

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With over 400 members across the United States and Canada, the association represents around 2,500 individuals. With this comes an inherent responsibility to educate the public by sharing the surprisingly large extent to which demolition experts work within construction. According to Jeff, by putting the needs of its clients and communities at the forefront, those within the demolition process are required to operate in a wide range of areas, gathering a wealth of knowledge and expertise. “These services include structural demolition and dismantlement, industrial recovery, C&D recycling, specialized rigging and landfilling, insurance services, equipment manufacturing, general contracting, architectural salvage, facilities decontamination, asbestos abatement and nuclear clean-up, and much more.”

Similarly, the NDA is eager to change the perception around the areas it can, and does, operate in. To those outside the industry, it may seem as though demolition only takes place on a building site. The reality, however, is very different. Diverse fields such as environmentally sensitive areas and wastewater locations are just some of the areas that the NDA’s members can be found. Jeff explains just how diverse and instrumental the work being done by the association’s members actually is. “Our members respond to disasters as emergency support personnel, clean up Brownfields and Superfund sites, provide the scrap industry with their feedstock, process a huge quantity of our waste stream for reuse and recycle our nation’s most valuable resource, its land. The National Demolition Association provides tools to local communities to prepare for a natural or man-made disaster and provides member companies resources to improve their availability to provide support during a disaster.”

“Diverse fields such as environmentally sensitive areas and wastewater locations are just some of the areas that the NDA’s members can be found.”

In addition to that there are disaster response sites’ locations which can have very challenging conditions and that require expert and sensitive skills. In recent years for example, demolition contractors have been involved with the disaster response teams of 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing and most recently the Surfside condominium collapse in Florida. Jeff acknowledges that the reason for their involvement is simple; these companies have the required skillset. “Many demolition contractors’ staffs include HAZWOPER-trained labor forces who are experienced working with unstable structures and disposing of hazardous materials. Qualified demolition contractors with experience moving large amounts of debris and removing structures of all types provide invaluable support during a disaster response.”

While it may seem as though the National Demolition Association is solely dedicated to education and highlighting the work being doing within the industry, the truth is far more diverse. Advocacy on behalf of its members has meant that the association works to develop and sustain close relationships with lawmakers to ensure the most advantageous outcomes for its industry and the members within it. In fact, over the past several years, NDA has worked to position themselves as the voice of the demolition industry in the U.S. As Jeff is quick to point out, the work being done behind the scenes is having enormously positive effects on those within the industry. “Last year, Congress worked on both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation bill. NDA was successful in getting investments into critical infrastructure projects, along with funding for things like Brownfield sites. That legislation was signed into law by President Biden. We have built relationships with House and Senate members and look forward to continuing to advocate for our members on Capitol Hill.”

NDA has a more direct strand; one which perhaps is of most benefit to its members on a day-to-day basis. As studies have shown, jobsite safety is a huge concern and construction related deaths make up far too great a number for anyone connected to the industry. The association works tirelessly in this regard, teaming up with OSHA to “create demolition-specific trainings on robotics, fall protection, health hazards, and pre-engineering to educate OSHA compliance safety and health officers. This collaboration is part of an ongoing effort to provide training, procedures, and continued education within the demolition industry.” Additionally, on a macro level, NDA members have access to the association’s safety resources which cover demolition safety, hazardous communication, skid steer operations, asbestos, and lead safety and more. “Our member safety resources include access to the NDA Safety App, which houses the NDA Safety Manual, fillable JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) and Pre-Demolition Engineering Survey forms. We also provide over 75 Demolition Safety Talks in English and Spanish.”

This year also, thankfully, marked the return of in-person events which have always been a vital way of showcasing the skills and innovation on offer within the industry. The being a prime example of how successful these can be. The Annual Convention & Expo housed a staggering 968 demolition professionals from across the country and 67 exhibitors at the Expo. In addition, a record breaking 30 exhibitors joined the outdoor Live DEMOlition Event ™, a live equipment demonstration that kicked off the convention and has doubled in size over the past three years. It is predicted that next year’s event, due to take place in Phoenix, Arizona will grow once more.

So, what now for those within the demolition industry? As government spending is due to reach unprecedented levels, what opportunities are presenting the members of NDA? According to those in the know, the Infrastructure Act includes $21 billion in funding to address legacy pollution. Jeff and his colleagues at NDA believe it can be used to clean up brownfield and superfund sites and “that communities and agencies will turn to demolition and remediation experts to begin this much-needed work.” Overall, according to those at the National Demolition Association, the future is optimistic and its members are well placed to outgrow the misnomer of being “guys who blow things up” long into the future.   To wrap it up, Jeff is succinct. He believes that the end, and most important, result is a better standard of industry with better conditions for those within it. “The bill also increases production capacity as well as expands what projects will be eligible for funding. As a result of the bill increasing the number of projects available to contractors, the number of jobs in the industry will increase. We believe that this once-in-a-lifetime investment will help the environment and increase job opportunities.”

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