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CROSS Safety Report

Grades of steelwork

Report ID: 43 Published: 1 February 2007 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A reporter says that engineers seem reluctant to specify the grade of steel. Even when prompted, some fail to request anything other than just S275 – failing to mention JR, J0, or other grades.

Key Learning Outcomes

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • When specifying steelwork, the correct steel subgrade, which is linked to thickness and operational temperature demands, should also be specified

  • This selection is a requirement from the designer to meet the National Structural Steelwork Specification (NSSS)

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A reporter says that engineers seem reluctant to specify the grade of steel. Even when prompted, some fail to request anything other than just S275 – failing to mention JR, J0, or other grades. Back in the 1980s, most steel came from British Steel which was of high quality. However, supplies from abroad (not necessarily a bad thing) may require more precise specification, particularly for anything that is external.

Expert Panel Comments

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This report is of concern reinforcing a view that many designers do not appreciate the importance of steel properties other than the one governing strength. European standard EN 10025:2004 defines available steel grade classifications for various Charpy V-notch impact capabilities as referred to by the reporter.

The reporter may well be right that many engineers are not fully aware of the demands of brittle fracture and of their responsibility to specify a grade of steel having adequate strength but also one having adequate toughness for the design circumstances. This involves selecting the correct subgrade linked to thickness and operational temperature demands.

This selection is a requirement from the designer to meet the National Structural Steelwork Specification (NSSS). What is of even more concern is the extrapolation to bigger jobs where the steel is welded and thicker, beyond the normal range, and operating in cold temperatures where the risks of brittle fracture became much greater.

A useful reference is; W Swann: ‘Is your steel tough enough? Specifying steel to BS 5950-1: 2000’, The Structural Engineer, Vol. 83, No 21 (November 2005) and there is also a Viewpoint article ‘Designing for safe construction’ in The Structural Engineer, Vol. 84, No 10 (May 2006).

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