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CROSS Safety Report

Questionable temporary works used to retain embankment excavation

Report ID: 806 Published: 1 June 2022 Region: CROSS-UK


This report is about the need for properly engineered retaining walls for all heights of retained materials.

Key Learning Outcomes

For all involved with site works:

  • Be aware of the dangers from steep earth faces of any height
  • Install properly designed retaining walls in the temporary condition if there is a risk to personnel
  • Work with a temporary works designer if possible

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 report is about the need for properly engineered retaining walls for all heights of retained materials. The concern arose when an exposed face near to a working transport route was seen to be supported by an assortment of old boards and a few raking props. The height of retained material was 1.5 to 1.8m.

An assessment by an engineer found that the works were wholly inadequate and potentially dangerous being under‐designed and improperly installed. It gave a false sense of security and if the face were to slip there was every probability this structure would collapse which could have led to injury or worse.

It is essential that the need for temporary works is determined early in the design process by suitably qualified and experienced personnel, and where needed the works shall be designed to BS5975. Cutting corners can cost lives.

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.

As the reporter says all walls which retain soil (or other materials) must be properly designed and constructed. This applies equally to temporary works and permanent works. Height is an important factor and there have been many serious consequences resulting from the collapses of quite low walls.

CROSS has many reports about retaining walls. You can search for further safety information on retaining walls on the CROSS website.

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