Skip to main content

CROSS Safety Report

Dangerous alterations to steel beam supports

Report ID: 479 Published: 1 October 2015 Region: CROSS-UK

This report is over 2 years old

Please be aware that it might contain information that is no longer up to date. We keep all reports available for historic reference and as learning aids.

Overview

A local authority building control officer went to site and witnessed on an upper floor that the columns had been removed out of sequence, before the new frame had been constructed.  

Key Learning Outcomes

For construction professionals:

  • Quality control and competent supervision on site can help to ensure that the structure is built in accordance with the design 

  • Effective communication of essential design information in an accessible form to tradespeople working on site can also ensure the works are in accordance with the design intent

  • Consider appointing a competent temporary works coordinator (TWC) on site who can ensure all temporary works are carefully considered and planned

Full Report

Find out more about the Full Report

Our secure and confidential safety reporting system gives professionals the opportunity to share their experiences to help others. If you would like to know more, please visit the reporting to CROSS-US page.

An existing building was being converted to another use, says a reporter. The structure is being replaced, but the facade retained. The construction method was to create a new frame within the existing, with columns punching through the existing slab. The facade was then to be tied into the new frame and the old structure removed. The local authority building control officer went to site and witnessed on an upper floor that the columns had been removed out of sequence, before the new frame had been constructed (Figure 1). 

A steel beam supporting timber joists above. The steel column supporting the steel beams has been cut and removed. There is a temporary steel prop next to the column.
Figure 1: beam joint at location of removed column

The existing beam over had been left simply supported, with no continuity over the columns. Upon removal of the columns, the beam tripled in length and with load reversal at the column points, the compression flange had no positive connection (Figure 2). It seemed that the floor over was spanning through membrane action, as there was luckily very good tying between members. 

A steel beam supporting timber joists above. The steel columns supporting the steel beams have been cut and removed.
Figure 2: three span beam with columns removed

The building control officer asked for the beams to be propped immediately and no damage occurred. The reporter says that this highlights poor site control, an inadequate construction plan and a lack of understanding of the structure by the site operatives. Furthermore, they say, the structural engineer did not make any visits to the site.

Expert Panel Comments

Find out more about the Expert Panel

An Expert Panel 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-US Expert Panel page.

Judging by the number of failures that are reported to CROSS, the skills of assessing temporary stability during construction or alteration seem to be lacking. In any alteration there is no substitute for breaking down the planned changes into discrete steps and for then assessing strength and stability at each stage. 

The CDM Regulations 2015 make clear that both phases be adequately planned, managed and monitored by the designers. It is good practice to refer the contractor to the Health and Safety Executive page Temporary Works (TW) FAQs which advises the appointment of a temporary works coordinator who then needs to direct the design and sequencing of the temporary works. It also requires that those involved have the right skills, knowledge, training and experience to carry out the tasks required of them. 

Site monitoring is often neglected in terms of risk management, but it is a question that would arise in any formal proceedings in the event of failure. Insurers sometimes advise engineers to limit site visits unless specifically included in agreements and temporary works are generally additional services. CIRIA is currently (2015) undertaking a review of structural stability during alteration work and a series of recommendations will be published in due course.

Share your knowledge

Your report will make a difference. It will help to create positive change and improve safety.

Our secure and confidential safety reporting system gives professionals the opportunity to share their experiences to help others.