Gil Olson was operating a high reach excavator on a demolition job in Seattle when a 10-by-30-foot section of concrete came loose and fell 8 stories onto the cab. The cab was crushed, pinning Olson inside but he survived – thanks in part to the curious construction of this type of machine.
High-reach excavators are designed for demolition rather than digging. They have ultra-long booms that can be equipped with hydraulic devices for shearing or breaking. The cab can be tilted so the operator faces up when working high overhead. A roll cage and heavy grills over bullet proof glass protect the cab from falling debris – though there's no guarantee they will be strong enough to withstand the blow from a gigantic piece of falling concrete. Fortunately for Olson and his family, the glass in his excavator held; he was seriously injured but it looks like he'll make a good recovery.
High-reach excavators are more common in Europe than they are in the U.S. – where wrecking balls and explosives are the preferred tools for demolishing large structures. Europe is more densely built so there is not always space to use a wrecking ball or explosives. And by taking the building down in smaller pieces they are able to recycle more of the waste.
High-reach excavator demolishing a building.