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CROSS Safety Report

Falling lath and plaster ceiling

Report ID: 562 Published: 1 April 2016 Region: CROSS-UK

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A 100 year old lath and plaster ceiling in a shop unit collapsed in part, injuring the shop keeper.

Key Learning Outcomes

For building owners and managers:

  • Be aware that all structures including ceilings will degrade with time

  • Regular inspections and maintenance can help keep a structure/ element safe. Inspections should be carried out by a competent person who is suitably qualified

Full Report

Find out more about the Full Report

This section contains the Full Report submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s concerns or experiences. However, the text has been edited for clarity, and identifiable details have been removed to ensure anonymity and confidentiality. 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.


A 100 year old lath and plaster ceiling in a shop unit collapsed in part, injuring the shop keeper. There were signs of distress (cracking) shortly before collapse. Upon inspection, says the reporter, it appeared that the 35-40mm thick plaster had become de-bonded from the laths. At the time some 'soft' demolition was being carried out on the floors above. This included removal of heavy computer cabinets and it is believed that vibrations contributed to the collapse.

Figure 1: collapsed lath and plater ceiling

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

Old plasterwork ceilings represent a hazard and collapses are not uncommon. The worst known case of this occurred at a London theatre (see London Apollo Theatre ceiling collapse) when 70 people were injured. All structures degrade with time and ceilings are a cause of particular concern as:

  • They can be heavy and fall from height

  • Various reports to CROSS suggest cascade type global collapses can occur from a minor initiating event

Guidance on the subject is being considered by CROSS. You can search for safety information on ceilings on the CROSS website.

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