CROSS Safety Report
Falling lath and plaster ceiling
This report is over 2 years old
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
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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.
Expert Panel Comments
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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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