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CROSS Safety Report

Checking at a price

Report ID: 227 Published: 1 October 2011 Region: CROSS-UK

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In relation to the checking of calculations on behalf of local authorities for building regulation submissions a reporter is concerned about checking engineers who are paid very low hourly rates.

Key Learning Outcomes

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • It is good practice to check and validate outputs from design software

  • It is important to recognise and know the boundaries of your expertise and work within the limits of your competence

  • Checkers of design models should ensure the model and its input data are appropriate, and that the output makes sense. The checker should consider if anything has been omitted or overlooked

Full Report

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The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.


In relation to the checking of calculations on behalf of local authorities for building regulation submissions (CROSS Newsletter No 20 report 210) a reporter is concerned about checking engineers who are paid very low hourly rates. In one case, says the reporter, checking is done by an experienced chartered engineer with reasonable judgment and skills, but with no knowledge, or very limited knowledge, of limit state codes or Eurocodes.

This engineer was engaged to check a project that had been designed using finite element methods to Eurocode standards, and the reporter suspects that, in approving the design, this engineer did not check it thoroughly as they had no access to relevant software. What can one do in such circumstances, asks the reporter? It is difficult for designers to go to the local authority and accuse them of not checking properly, as is their duty, and ask them to get their sub-contract engineer to do it more thoroughly.

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It is of course the responsibility of the originating design organisation in the first instance to check the design and there should not be reliance on building control. Nonetheless, Building Control Bodies, in exercising their responsibilities, need to ensure that they are engaging appropriately experienced and competent engineers. Some authorities may have difficulty in doing this if they lack structural engineering skills themselves. 

This Newsletter will be seen by many Building Control Bodies and may act as a prompt for them to consider the adequacy of their processes. In this case the combination of FEA and Eurocodes implies that a sophisticated design was involved. The use of FEA can be a problem and what should be done is to look at the magnitude of the forces and perform some simple calculations to see that the scale is right. 

It is the lack of adequate assumptions on force flow and load distribution that needs the greatest checking. Experience, skill and judgment are the required skills. Sufficient information on input and output should be provided in the design calculations so that another person can produce similar results even if he does not use the same software. Checking one software product against another is difficult even for experts.

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