CROSS Safety Alert
Preventing the collapse of free-standing masonry walls
There have been collapses of free-standing masonry walls over many years and there have been fatalities and numerous injuries; particularly to children.
Everyone in the building industry should be aware of the dangers of vulnerable walls such as: those that appear to be very slender, those which are loose, those that have different soil levels on each side, those that lean, and those where there are signs of damage or deterioration.
Most simple walls have not been structurally designed, or selected in accordance with recognised guidelines, but are constructed by small builders or householders. They often have excessive height to thickness proportions and are without adequate piers, buttressing or reinforcing.
Note: this Safety Alert was published by SCOSS (Standing Committee on Structural Safety). Since March 2021, SCOSS is integrated under the name Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures (CROSS).
Who should read this?
Those who own, design, construct, inspect or maintain free-standing walls which front onto streets, paths, yards or gardens or walls within buildings. Owners, contractors, civil and structural engineers, surveyors, local authority building control officers.
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I wish to draw your attention to that which appears to be an error in your SCOSS Alert. Paragraph 3 states 'if this is an adopted highway' whereas 1980 Highways Act Section 66. Part IE+W+S+N.I. Highway Authorities and Agreements Between Authorities states... H(2)Outside Greater London the council of a county [F2or metropolitan district] are the highway authority for all highways in the county [F2or, as the case may be, the district], whether or not maintainable at the public expense, which are not highways for which under subsection (1) above the Minister is the highway authority.
This is an interesting point and below is the response from one of our Expert Panel Members. This is a grey area, and hinges around whether it is a ‘highway’ or not. There is no definition of ‘highway’ other than in common law. Some unadopted roads become highways through dedication and acceptance, others would not be defined as highways. The query is seemingly correct in part, because an unadopted highway may be subject to highway authority control but some unadopted roads are not highways and so would not.