CROSS Safety Report
Suspended ceiling replacement in high rise block
This report is over 2 years old
A reporter was involved in replacing a suspended ceiling after a few loose panels had fallen, resulting in a minor injury in one case.
Key Learning Outcomes
For construction professionals:
Attention should be given to the design of ceilings and the safety-critical aspects of their fixings and anchors
A contract should look to define who is responsible for checking CDP items
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A reporter is involved with replacing medium-density fibreboard (MDF) ceilings (15mm thick heavy panels) on a 30 plus storey tower block in the UK. The work was triggered by fears following a few loose panels that had fallen, resulting in a minor injury in one case. What emerges says the reporter is:
Ceiling detailed design is typically a contractor/installer designed portion (CDP)
Typical generic manufacturers’ details need modifying to suit a given building
There is effectively no structural engineer involvement, with the architect being expected to define the characteristics and the sub-contractor expected to complete the design and installation. The checking duties of the architect of the CDP are unclear.
Services access panels can be removed and not reinstalled properly (there can be landlord's common area services and leaseholder flat owners who have different companies doing maintenance)
When the reporter has queried in the past with quantity surveyors about what they need to do with CDPs, for example CDP for steel connection design, they are told to do nothing. This is seemingly because when a CDP is identified in a Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) contract, it is a way of packaging up design development/cost/risk. The JCT/CDP seems to ignore a designer’s legal duties defined in their agreement.
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Ceilings may appear to be minor items that can just be delegated to ‘installation’. However, CROSS has published numerous reports of heavy ceiling cascade failures which represent a credible safety hazard. You can search for safety information on ceilings on the CROSS website.
There is generic hazard with any suspended structure. The Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) Alert Tension systems and post-drilled fixings may be consulted for advice on fixings.
Other sources of information are the Construction Fixings Association (CFA) and BS8539:2012 (Code of practice for the selection and installation of post-installed anchors in concrete and masonry).
This report has similarities with report 904 which discussed common cladding issues. When design is passed down the chain, standard designs may be modified on site, and no one is responsible to check that the final solution meets the required standards.