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CROSS Safety Report

Office ceiling collapse

Report ID: 124 Published: 1 July 2009 Region: CROSS-UK

This report is over 2 years old

Please be aware that it might contain information that is no longer up to date. We keep all reports available for historic reference and as learning aids.


This reported event was in a commercial office building at a major airport.

Key Learning Outcomes

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • Connections can often be the weak link in structures and attention to detail is required to ensure what is designed can be fabricated
  • Careful consideration is required for connections, particularly at interfaces between different materials. The role of tolerances should not be overlooked.
  • An attribute of ‘safety’ is to assure that the design is not disproportionately vulnerable to minor error
  • The recent alert by the Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) – The selection and installation of construction fixings, provides helpful guidance

Full Report

Find out more about the Full Report

The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. 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.


This reported event was in a commercial office building at a major airport. There was a lightweight composite deck roof which was deemed insufficient for aircraft noise break-in. For this reason a double layer plasterboard plus mineral fibre overlay ceiling was recommended. This partially collapsed one morning – fortunately without any injuries. The reporter believes that the suspension system utilised undersized washers.

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.

This is another collapse of a heavy acoustic ceiling similar to those already reported and which contributed to the Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) alert – The selection and installation of construction fixings.

This pattern of such failures needs further publicity as it is likely that the importance of the selection and installation of fixings is overlooked and the loads from acoustic ceilings, and other heavy ceilings, are underestimated.

The fact that these fixings are safety critical is not understood by those managing the design and construction process. The Alert mentioned above sets out the key actions for safe choice, design, installation and use of fixings. You can search for safety information on ceilings on the CROSS website.

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