CROSS Safety Report
Poor quality of construction and lack of supervision on a block of flats
This report is over 2 years old
Concerns are raised over poor quality construction and a lack of supervision on a residential block of flats.
During a site visit several critical structural elements were found to be installed incorrectly. This included a cantilever transfer beam supporting five storeys.
Key Learning Outcomes
It is good practice to engage the design team to carry out sufficient inspections to check that observed quality is matched to design intent
There is always a risk that safety will be compromised when the lowest cost is the main criteria for selecting products, processes or people
For construction professionals:
Quality assurance and competent supervision on site can help to ensure that the structure is built in accordance with the design
Quality control procedures should ensure that workers are always working to the latest set of construction drawings
For civil and structural design engineers:
Consider attending site and inspecting the installation of critical structural elements
If you are unable to attend site, consider asking the contractor for site photos of the installation of critical structural elements
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.
The reporter is a consulting structural engineer working on a project in major UK city. The project involves new buildings for residential flats over a single storey basement. They attended site several times in the early stages of construction and found issues including:
Poor document control
The use of superseded drawings on site
Incorrect/failure to install temporary works required to prop the perimeter piled wall
Omission of design steel reinforcement
Undermining of adjacent structures
Their firm raised all these issues in site reports issued to the design team and client. In response, they were then told not to attend site by the client, and that supervision was to be provided by building control. However, another member of the firm recently attended site for a meeting and found that several critical structural elements - cantilever transfer beams supporting five storeys - had been built incorrectly.
another member of the firm recently attended site for a meeting and found that several critical structural elements - cantilever transfer beams supporting five storeys - had been built incorrectly
The beam was stopping short of the column it was meant to be supporting, leaving load from five storeys to be supported on the edge of a 250mm thick slab. The concern is that the contractor is of a poor standard, is being pushed by the client, and there is inadequate supervision. If this error had not been picked up by chance the results could have been catastrophic.
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Expert Panel Comments
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 part of the disturbing pattern we are getting and which has been crystallised in the Edinburgh Schools Inquiry, and is another example of inadequate supervision with the potential for disaster. The situation is made worse by client actions that are apparently contrary to the CDM Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015).
Where was the principal designer, where was the temporary works coordinator and who was providing the client with advice on their obligations under the CDM regulations? Where was the adequate supervision of the works on site?
Short cuts can lead to death and injury. It is unlikely that a building control inspection will detect the type of concern raised by the reporter so reliance cannot be placed on them for assurance of routine quality.
That is not their job. CROSS has repeatedly warned that construction safety is not achieved by adequate design alone and there is plenty of evidence that clients are cutting corners by not engaging designers to verify that what they have designed is actually constructed. Best practice is for clients to engage design teams to carry out sufficient inspections to check that observed quality is matched to design intent.