Engineers must consider risk management at a “fundamental level” following structural collapses and tragic building fires

Significant, and tragic, failures involving structures continue to occur: fires in apartment blocks in Milan, London and Taiwan, and structural collapses in Florida and Nigeria being recent examples. CROSS [Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures] calls upon engineers to consider risk management at a fundamental level.

It finds the recent loss events tend to be caused through the failure to manage ‘soft hazards’ and notes none of these hazards relates specifically to Higher Risk Buildings, which are currently the focus of much attention.

“They apply universally, are not new, are well documented, and have previously led to failures,” says the briefing. “They are of relevance to all structural and civil and fire engineers whatever the type or scale of project.”

”Structural and civil and fire engineers work in a high risk environment; most of the time all is well, but when a problem occurs it can be very serious both in terms of life, commercial cost and reputation,” it continues.

“It is easy to slip into complacency; however, a quick review of the CROSS database, and the literature, demonstrates the need for constant vigilance. Managing safety risk is not an optional exercise. It is a statutory obligation, will be a contractual requirement, and is an obligation under Institution Codes of Practice. It requires a disciplined approach by the designer, on all projects.”

This may also involve giving advice to clients and other stakeholders, which on occasion may be perceived as unwarranted from a quality control or cost perspective, concludes CROSS, adding, “Competent risk assessment and experience may say otherwise”.