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IStructE strengthen CPD guidance on structural safety

Region: CROSS-UK, CROSS-AUS, CROSS-US Published: 7 July 2021

John Veares, Chair of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) Professional Development Panel, introduces the changes that the IStructE have made to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) reporting on structural safety.



There have unfortunately been many building and infrastructure failures in the past. Some of the most notable are Ronan Point and Oklahoma City (lack of robustness and progressive collapse), Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aerodynamic effects on long span bridge deck), Hyatt Regency (detail design change during construction), Florida footbridge (failure during construction) and Didcot Power Station (uncontrolled collapse during deconstruction). From just this small sample it can be seen that failures may occur at any stage during the life of the structure.

Although not necessarily a structural failure, the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 looks like having as significant effect on the UK construction industry. The subsequent review by Dame Judith Hackitt and the report Building a Safer Future identified significant shortcomings in the procurement, design, execution and management of construction projects; particularly Higher Risk Buildings (HRBs).

As a result of the Hackitt Review, those engineers involved in the design of HRBs will need to be included on specialist registers. This type of requirement is not out of the ordinary for many engineers around the world where registration systems already exist. Regular CPD is generally a vital part of maintaining registration and structural safety should be considered as a significant part of this.

Regular CPD is generally a vital part of maintaining registration and structural safety should be considered as a significant part of this

Even as I write this article there is breaking news of the tragic collapse of a multi-storey residential building in Miami. As this is an ongoing situation, speculation on the causes would not be fitting, but hopefully these will be fully reported following appropriate investigations. Again, painful lessons will need to be learned in order to drastically reduce the recurrence of such events.

IStructE and CPD

Around twenty years ago, IStructE made a decision to raise the priority of members’ CPD. Whilst it was already mandatory to engage in CPD activities, the requirement to submit an annual return was on a voluntary basis. Starting in 2011, a random sample of members were requested to submit an annual return for audit, and from 2015, sanctions were added such that members that did not engage in the process were removed from membership.

From 2019, the Engineering Council (EC) decreed that all Professional Engineering Institutions would be required to introduce mandatory CPD audits with appropriate sanctions. The foresight of IStructE meant that such a system was already in place and its membership in step with the EC requirements. However, this did not mean that we could sit back and not develop the system. Having engaged the membership, it is important to now look to improve the quality of CPD returns submitted.

Structural safety CPD

The IStructE recognised the importance of safety related CPD for its members. Therefore, since 2019, the IStructE has suggested that members include aspects specific to structural safety in their CPD activities and returns. In 2021 there has been a campaign to further promote the importance of structural safety CPD. It is now suggested in the guidance that members should aim to gain at least six hours (of the recommended 30 hours) of structural safety related CPD each year. It is hoped that this approach will have the same effect as mandatory CPD reporting and will put the membership in a good position to satisfy current requirements and any proposed new legislation.

Suggested sources of structural safety CPD

  • Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures (CROSS) – CROSS is one of the most accessible sources of free and relevant information regarding structural safety. This could be via CROSS Newsletters, searches regarding specific issues or actual involvement in the confidential reporting of safety issues to CROSS. Whilst originally established to report safety issues in the UK (CROSS-UK), CROSS now also operates in Australasia (CROSS-AUS) and the United States (CROSS-US).
  • Temporary Works Forum (TWf) – many failures occur during construction due to inadequate consideration of temporary loadings. TWf has a great deal of useful information available to assist in the proper provision of temporary works.
  • The Structural Engineer – The IStructE magazine has and continues to publish articles such as the Temporary Works Toolkit, project papers and technical guidance. An excellent example of the latter is two papers, published in the June 2021 edition, on the subjects of analysis and justification of existing structures where modifications are proposed. Journal articles are available on the IStructE website and free to members.
  • Technical meetings, seminars and courses – numerous opportunities from various sources with most now available as online events or webinars.
  • Employer driven learning – provision of lunchtime seminars either internal led or supplier presentations.
  • Study of relevant text books – of particular note is the recently published Designing a Safer Built Environment: A complete guide to the management of design risk – John Carpenter and the upcoming Structural safety: Theory and Practice – Allan Mann.
  • TV documentaries – although generally designed for entertainment rather than education some, such as the series Massive Engineering Mistakes, can provide useful reminders of vital lessons to be learned.
  • Project based research – use of the above, and other, sources for the design of real projects to ensure that all aspects of structural safety are considered.
  • Mentoring – it is vitally important that previous lessons learned by more senior engineers are passed on to those more junior to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated.

CROSS is one of the most accessible sources of free and relevant information regarding structural safety

As with all CPD activities, the real worth can only be realised through reflection on the benefits gained and using these to make changes to the way you and colleagues carry out your work.

By now, all engineers should be well aware of the benefits of meaningful CPD. However, post-Grenfell, it is obvious that maintaining up to date knowledge in specific areas is likely to become mandatory; particularly in England / UK. The introduction of structural safety specific CPD to IStructE members is seen as a first step in preparation for any new legislation. Hopefully, other engineering institutions will be taking a similar approach with their members.

In addition to the benefits gained by engineers, there is also the benefit to employers in having a better prepared workforce and the benefit to the public in the awareness that structural safety is of high priority.

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