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Newsletter 58 - April 2020

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Report Overview

All thoughts about safety are concentrated on the COVID-19 epidemic and the threats brought to the world. It is dangerous and debilitating at the front line of medical care and we must applaud and thank those who are protecting our lives, sometimes at the cost of their own. In risk terms this overwhelms everything, and the implications would have been unimaginable a few weeks ago except to a few experts who know the dreadful power of pandemics. Some had warned for years of upcoming threats from diseases originating in remote corners of the animal world and jumping species. There was preparedness in many countries but as events have unfolded the lack of awareness and of sufficiently robust contingency planning has become evident. Many lessons will emerge, and it will be incumbent on national and international leaders to put in place the necessary actions to learn from them. These will be medical, financial, and above all societal, so that the world can recover and is better prepared for the inevitable next pandemic. Only the date will be unknown. To ensure safety, the advice of experts is critical and must be adopted. In the construction and building management sectors there will be lessons to learn too. See the information box on page 2. In these circumstances what are the new risks, be they to workers, operatives, building managers or occupiers? We must design and pre-plan for structural robustness whatever the world brings to us. At CROSS we look at building safety and by disseminating lessons learned from reporters and our expert panel, encourage industry to take steps to prevent future failures and collapses. Lessons are there to be learned, and whilst the context is small by comparison, the safety of our buildings and built assets is crucial to society. Many in the construction industry are fearful about their jobs, their health, and the continuity of their companies, so structural safety will not be high on their agendas. Nevertheless, it would be even more distressing if there were to be building failures as a consequence of inaction. Please continue to make your reports: CROSS is ‘working from home’, and just as busy and focussed as ever. Following the Hackitt Report and the proposed new Building Safety legislation, a project was started in January for MHCLG (Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government) to enhance CROSS and develop a new confidential reporting system for fire safety. Thanks are due to those who responded to a survey about this and the results are encouraging and helpful. Work will continue for the next 12 months in addition to our usual activities and updates will be given in the Newsletters. The reports in this edition fall into the categories of either inadequate design methods, or inadequate supervision and control on site, and there are lessons to be learned for all.

Overview of Reports in this Newsletter

908 Failure of RAAC planks in schools

Further issues with defective RAAC planks in flat roofs are highlighted in this report.

904 Structural issues with cladding

A reporter who investigates cladding failures shares common issues they have encountered.

882 Post-tensioned slab failure

Lessons learned after the end of a slab burst during a cable tensioning operation are shared by a reporter.

886 Unconservative design of flat slab

A reporter discusses how a design/modelling problem caused an under-designed RC slab to be constructed.

906 Missing punching shear reinforcement

Two separate engineers observed the omission of design punching shear reinforcement prior to slab pours on site.

873 Propping of post-tensioned slabs

An infill slab strip was not poured in time, resulting in overloading of the slab below during a concrete pour.

911 Suspended ceiling collapse in high-rise tower block

Concerns are raised about where designers duties lie in certain contractual relationships.

915 Crane outrigger loads underestimated due to misuse of software

The crane boom was not in the worst-case position when crane outrigger loads were calculated for a particular lift.

889 Dangerous substitution of lintels on domestic projects

A contractor was unaware that a substituted lintel did not have the same structural properties as the specified lintel.

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