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CROSS Safety Report

Workmanship in domestic buildings

Report ID: 971 Published: 14 October 2020 Region: CROSS-UK


Overview

A reporter has raised concerns after discovering a steel beam on site had its web cut away at the support without approval from the design engineer.

Structural steel connections were also constructed on site without any construction drawings or connection details provided.

Key Learning Outcomes

For construction professionals:

  • If there is uncertainty on any structural matters consulting with the design engineer can help to clarify any uncertainty
  • Seek approval from the design engineer for any proposed structural alterations prior to implementing them on site
  • Ensure the site crew are always working with the latest construction drawings, in particular if there are amendments to drawings during the construction stage

Full Report

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A reporter on site discovered that a steel beam had the web cut away at the support to avoid having to divert some services. The cut-out meant that the full load on the beam would have been supported by just bending in the bottom flange, once the temporary props had been removed.

Additionally, the site staff did not have all the structural drawings for the project. As a result of this they made up a beam to column connection as a flexible end plate whereas there needed to be a full moment end plate connection.

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.

Domestic projects may not have the full range of professionals around, especially for one-off buildings. They are often constructed by firms with limited resources. This does not exempt the builders, or anyone else involved, from acting responsibly. It is a real concern that sections of a major load-bearing component could simply be cut away for the convenience of a service installer.

The fact there was an incomplete set of structural drawings on site shows a lack of oversight particularly when the design called for a full moment end plate connection. The theme of ‘failure by unauthorised change’ is commonplace. This exemplifies why a person who is not competent must not make design alterations that could have severe consequences.

Designers, whoever employs them; client, main contractor or sub-contractor, must ensure that the final drawings are distributed to all parties and that they approve the detailed designs and drawings.

Contractors, if they are unsure about any structural matters, must consult the designers and not assume design responsibilities by devising their own details.

Contractors, if they are unsure about any structural matters, must consult the designers and not assume design responsibilities by devising their own details.

Some sectors of the industry are allowing incompetence to reign. Large and complex buildings are the focus of current interest with the draft Building Safety Bill. However, the proposed legislation needs to be in place for smaller buildings too to prevent such dangerous occurrences in future. Thankfully, this one was picked up, but how many are not?

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