CROSS Safety Report
Fatigue failure of bridge cross-girder
During a planned examination of a bridge, a cross-girder was found to have failed via fatigue.
Key Learning Outcomes
For asset owners and managers:
- Regular inspections and maintenance can help keep a structure safe before it deteriorates and requires costly repairs
- Be aware that safety-critical defects may be hidden behind linings and connection plates
- The risks posed by hidden defects should be managed appropriately. Hidden Critical Element (HCE) inspections should be carried out by suitably qualified and experienced personnel.
- Further guidance can be found in CIRIA document: Hidden defects in bridges. Guidance for detection and maintenance (C764)
For civil and structural design engineers:
- Careful consideration should be given to the fatigue design of safety critical structures such as bridges
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During a planned examination of a bridge, a cross-girder was found to have failed via fatigue. According to the reporter, it is likely that the fatigue crack formed behind the connecting gusset plate to the main girder from a stress point at the top of the web.
The fatigue crack would be undetectable as it was hidden by the connecting gusset plate. The remaining section of the web and bottom flange then failed through shear, causing the girder to drop by around 15mm. Fatigue may have been exacerbated by the end bearing deflection of the main girder.
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