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CROSS Safety Report

Unrestrained stone cladding falls from building

Report ID: 619 Published: 1 April 2017 Region: CROSS-UK

This report is over 2 years old

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Overview

A person was injured when a large piece of stone cladding fell from a leisure complex that was completed in the early 2000’s.

Local investigations revealed that there were insufficient vertical or horizontal dowels to restrain the cladding.

Key Learning Outcomes

For construction professionals:

  • Any changes to connection details such as cladding support systems should be approved by the design engineer

  • Quality control and competent supervision on site can help to ensure that cladding systems are built in accordance with the design

  • The cladding design and installation should be given the same degree of attention as the primary structure to ensure safety, reliability, and longevity

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • Routinely raise the risks associated with unapproved alterations to contractors and the wider project team

  • Consider attending site to inspect the installation of cladding systems and their fixings

Full Report

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A leisure complex completed in the early 2000s has a steel frame structure with infill panels of block covered with thin stone cladding. A person was injured when a large piece of cladding fell. Local investigation revealed that there were insufficient vertical or horizontal dowels to restrain the cladding. Further investigations revealed this situation to be widespread across the building.

Local investigation revealed that there were insufficient vertical or horizontal dowels to restrain the cladding. Further investigations revealed this situation to be widespread across the building

There appears to have been a complete lack of awareness of the importance of proper dowelled restraint and a probable lack of knowledge on the part of the cladding sub-contractor as to whether these small but critical elements were installed. The reporter believes that there was a complete lack of responsibility on the part of the main contractor in having proper supervision by informed site staff.

The contract is beyond the latent defects period, so the contractor has avoided his legal and moral duties to society. The reporter’s firm are currently working through the building, examining areas thought to be at risk and installing remedial restraints or taking down and rebuilding.

This example, continues the reporter, once again underlines the poor state of our construction industry with untrained, inexperienced and unregulated labour.  By not employing properly trained independent site supervision clients, he continues, also carry a responsibility. Until the construction industry and professionals face up to this ocean of indifference then CROSS newsletter reports will flourish.

Expert Panel Comments

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There is a general pattern in many CROSS reports that secondary items do not receive the level of attention they deserve. All items of cladding are subjected to significant suction effects through life and as such must have a properly engineered and installed support system to transmit horizontal and vertical loadings.

When such supports cannot be inspected post installation, the quality assurance (QA) system should ensure that there is supervision and witnessing of adequate installation. Cladding support systems must be robustly engineered, and properly installed.

There are proprietary fixings systems on the market with instructions on how they should be installed and inspected. Again, there are echoes of the Edinburgh schools (Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) alert - Inquiry into the construction of Edinburgh Schools) problems in this case.

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