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CROSS Safety Report

Lack of experience on steel column erection

Report ID: 324 Published: 1 April 2013 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A reporter highlights how works progressed on site without a detailed method statement being provided by the contractor even though it had been requested.

Key Learning Outcomes

For the construction team:

  • Quality control and competent supervision on site can help to ensure that the structure is built in accordance with the design

  • Having a competent temporary works designer/adviser in place to supply an engineered solution can ensure all temporary works are carefully considered and planned

  • Verification of temporary works erection by a competent person who can oversee and coordinate the whole process can also ensure the works are installed correctly

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • This report highlights the potential value of visits by the design team who may (as on this occasion) identify a problem. If you are unable to attend site, ask the contractor for site photos of the installation of critical structural elements such as bracing members.

  • Specific to steel framed building, the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA) Guide to the Erection of Multi-Storey Buildings provides advice on maintaining stability during construction

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Geometric constraints, explains a reporter, required that some column baseplates used a 2-bolt solution with the bolts located between the flanges of the UC sections. Notes on the drawings identified a temporary stability issue and said that the columns required propping until fully grouted.

Several requests were made to the contractor to provide a method statement for erection, but this was not provided, and the reporter only noticed via a project webcam that the works had started.  The erection was being carried out by a large civil engineering contractor who had chosen to procure from a supplier and erect themselves rather than sub-contract the package to a steelwork specialist.

The site team, says the reporter, did not have much experience in steelwork erection and did not understand the importance of the temporary stability notes. The reporter also believes they were too programme-focused to respond to his requests for a method statement.

While the column posts were only 2m tall, they were 6 storeys up and adjacent to a train line. Had the correspondent not noticed the works on the webcam then progress would have continued un-checked and, had there been windy weather conditions, there could have been a serious accident.

Expert Panel Comments

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A proper system of work is a pre-requisite to any safety-critical action on site and should be recognised. In this case it appears that information was given by the designer regarding stability but ignored by the contractor. An unstable column high above a railway line is a safety-critical situation which carries considerable risk and warrants immediate attention.

There have been cases where insufficiently supported or braced steelwork has fallen and resulted in fatalities. It is another case where competency may have been assumed but in the event was not justified.  As more and more high rise towers are built in cities it is of utmost importance for industry to address such issues.

There have been cases where insufficiently supported or braced steelwork has fallen and resulted in fatalities.

In 2004 a UK company was fined a total of £100,000 following the death of a 16-year-old ground worker in an incident in which two structural steel columns were blown down by the wind. The need for temporary propping in such situations should be considered the norm.  Locating bolts are not the same as holding down bolts and this is another case where temporary works should be designed to avoid such problems.

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