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Newsletter 55 - July 2019

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Report Overview

The Grenfell Tower tragedy showed a need to make major changes and improvements to the building safety system. In June 2019, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in the UK published a consultation document concerning proposals to improve safety and minimise the risk of fire in certain buildings. They want views on the proposals and the document gives detailed descriptions and a series of questions under various headings. There are many areas within the consultation that are important for structural engineers, not just in the UK, and, when enshrined in legislation, will affect their responsibilities and working practices. The proposals concentrate on higher risk residential buildings but may be expected in future to be expanded to other buildings where a large number of people sleep, or indeed where they congregate. For years there has been evidence of an eroding system in which standards were allowed to slip, concerns from those in the industry, and from residents, were not heeded, and some took advantage of the situation to cut corners. Many of the problems now being highlighted have been seen in CROSS reports over the years. This is the opportunity to rebalance and improve the system by backing the proposals. There will be adjustments to be made and the emphasis on different recommendations will change depending upon the number and tenor of the responses. Engineers at every stage of their careers should read the full document and respond to the consultation, answering as many of the questions as they can, and as fully as they can, even though this is task of some magnitude. The more responses there are, and the higher their quality in terms of evidence, the more attention will be paid by Government when framing the subsequent legislation. Included in the consultation proposals are recommendations for all those who work on buildings to: • Expand and strengthen the existing CROSS scheme to collect more voluntary reports on structural safety issues and to have a scheme for collecting reports on fire safety issues. • Implement a new mandatory occurrence reporting system to the building safety regulator for key dutyholders to facilitate reporting of fire and structural safety issues. To support these proposals, please read the guidance from Structural-Safety on responding to three consultation questions in particular, with instructions on how to make a submission. The closing date for responses is 31 July 2019.

Overview of Reports in this Newsletter

798 Industry not reacting to failures

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the reporter has personally experienced clients and contractors putting money before safety, and consultants giving poor advice on fire related issues.

844 Defects in tapered thread reinforcement bars for coupling

Representatives of both the reinforcement and coupler manufacturers inspected reinforcement bars on site and confirmed that they were defective and were unlikely to provide the required tensile capacity when connected.

784 Swapping insulation behind cladding without adjusting details

A reporter is concerned that insulation behind cladding is being swapped without a full appreciation of the implications.

813 Failure of waling beam connected to raking prop

A reporter witnessed a failure on site as a result of the design issues discussed in CROSS report 298 Props to large excavations.

794 Contractor uses incorrect fixing bolts for masonry support angles

A correspondent noticed that proprietary masonry support angles specified to support the outer leaf of masonry had been incorrectly connected to the steel beam using carriage bolts.

800 Retaining wall excavation collapse

A 6m deep excavation formed for constructing a retaining wall collapsed due to insufficient propping.

467 Large stone panel falls from building facade

A large stone panel detached from a second floor beam and fell to the ground, narrowly missing a group of school children.

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