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Newsletter No 9 - January 2008

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Report Overview

This issue contains five reports on collapses: two involving demolition, two concerning free standing masonry walls, and one of a concrete joint. There were several fatalities and a serious injury. The reasons for failure were poor engineering judgement, or indeed none at all. There are fortunately only a few fatalities, certainly in the UK, as a direct consequence of bad engineering. However there are a significant number of failures and near misses on structures where there should have been proper engineering input but there was not. There is also a report about concerns over very lightweight steel frames. Reports to CROSS usually come from engineers who are well qualified and have come across failures in the course of an investigation or as a result of being called in to a collapse. The objective of SCOSS (Standing Committee on Structural Safety) is to raise awareness so that their knowledge is passed on, particularly to those are in a position to influence behaviour amongst designers, checkers, and contractors. Submitted reports are edited to remove identification and sometimes to give clarification but the views of reporters are not changed. They are logged and categorised to provide data for analysis and are then reviewed by a voluntary panel of experts who, in turn, provide the comments that are given in the Newsletters. There have recently been two important additions to the panel: the chief designer from a major contractor, and the chief building surveyor from a major city. They join the seven existing members who are from SCOSS, from firms of consulting engineers, and the Health & Safety Executive. All are appointed on the basis of their personal expertise and do not represent either their organisations or any commercial interests. CECA (Civil Engineering Contractors Association) is now circulating these Newsletters to its members and reports from them will be much appreciated as they will add to the value of the scheme. Reports are presented in normal text below, whilst comments from the panel are shown in green italics.

Overview of Reports in this Newsletter

59 Fatality from free standing wall collapse

A report was received from a local authority about a boundary wall to the front garden of a domestic property that collapsed suddenly resulting in the death of a child who was passing.

88 Concrete half joints

Failures in half joints can happen if reinforcement is not detailed properly. Recently the reporter’s firm has come across a half joint in some precast beams with a very poor reinforcement detail.

90 Further demolition collapse

Another report is of an incident that occurred recently in a UK city when a floor suffered a structural collapse during the demolition of a reinforced concrete building.

93 Proper design and use of cold rolled steel frames

A reporter has been designing structures in cold rolled steel for approximately twenty years, mainly portal frame buildings, and some concerns.

94 Serious injury from free standing wall collapse

Late one evening, says the reporter, three young people returned home. Two sat on chairs on the patio, a young lady perched herself on the wall. It rocked, she fell backwards, and the wall came down as a single piece of brickwork weighing the best part of half a tonne, on top of her

96 Demolition risks

This is about the collapse of a ‘flat slab’ building that occurred overseas whilst the top floor of the building was being demolished onto the next floor down. He says that this process was being undertaken by three tracked vehicles operating on the floor. The collapse was a classic "pancaking" of the slabs as they effectively slid down the supporting concrete columns. Several employees were killed in the accident and a number of serious defects were identified.

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