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CROSS Safety Report

Failure of vertical bracing system in coffee shop

Report ID: 759 Published: 30 June 2022 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

A reporter noticed that a bolt at a low level connecting node of the vertical bracing system in a public building had failed.

Key Learning Outcomes

For all built environment professionals:

  • If you notice a potential safety issue not during the course of your work, consider reporting it to the owner or tenant
  • If the owner is not known, then the appropriate regulator could be informed
  • Local authorities also have powers to take action if there is a potential imminent risk to the public
  • If readers are unsure if an incident should be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) they can contact the HSE Concerns and Advice team who will be able to advise

Full Report

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A reporter noticed that a bolt at a low level connecting node of the vertical bracing system in a public building had failed. The space immediately behind the area was a shop and the reporter discussed the matter with the tenant. The reporter was told that a few days before, when there was bad weather, the bolt just popped. This caused the reporter great concern as it sounded like the ties in the bracing system were taking significant load.

The reporter contacted HSE but was informed that because there was no suggestion that the failure was the direct result of a work activity, their powers were limited. That said, for HSE enforced premises (which did not apply to this shop), the safety of the employees and public will still be a factor.

The reporter then contacted the Local Authority as they have powers in respect of the strength and stability of existing buildings, and can apply a Dangerous Structures order to compel an owner to make the building safe. The node was subsequently seen to have been repaired but is not known whether the replacement bolt(s) have an increased shear capacity.

The reporter has concerns about the processes which organisations have for dealing with safety concerns such as this, especially for buildings which are open to the public. When a safety critical structural element fails who should act?

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