The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 84 (2006) > Issues > Issue 15 > Construction safety: an agenda for the profession
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Construction safety: an agenda for the profession

In 1968 the Institution of Civil Engineers published a report Safety in Civil Engineering1. The date is significant since it is almost the year I started work and so looking back now to 1968 gives us a chance to reflect on what has happened over one engineer’s lifetime. The impetus for the ICE report was summarised as: ‘the cost to the construction industry in lives, injuries and money over the past years has been so great that action was clearly an urgent matter‘. The report drew on the contents of three papers published in the Proceedings 2, 3, 4 and it further drew on information provided by a Mr Brueton following his study of a staggering total of 2000 failures. What has happened since then? The report cited possible causes of failure as: a) lack of proper regard by designers for feasibility of erection b) inadequate site investigation c) lack of proper communication at all levels e.g. between engineers and contractor, office, site, supplier, and manufacturer d) an unsafe erection or demolition scheme and site procedures; failure to analyse the effect on the structure and temporary works at all stages e) lack of supervision, awareness, foresight, or judgment f) inadequate engineering knowledge g) the use of the wrong material h) lack of adequate support, anchorage, or lateral restraint i) overloading j) the reverse loading of structural members k) the adverse influence of restrictive regulations on erection and demolition methods All those causes were scheduled with hindsight having knowledge of failures up to 1968. I am quite certain that engineers of my vintage will instantly recognise most of the list either from their own experience or from what they have read about in the era post 1968. Have we failed? If so, how? And how can we improve? Let me first of all reflect on some great milestones of safety (or rather lack of safety) that have taken place since the 1960s. Allan Mann, FREng, PhD, BSc (Eng), CEng, FIStructE, MICE Senior Consultant, Jacobs Babtie and SCOSS