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Engineering errors led to Twente stadium collapse

Basic engineering errors and communication failures within the construction team led to a fatal stadium roof collapse in the Netherlands, an official report said last week.

The report by the independent Dutch Safety Board confirmed that the roof collapsed at football club FC Twente’s Grolsch Veste stadium due to a lack of lateral bracing at the back of the structure. This was highlighted as a likely cause of the collapse soon after the disaster (NCE 14 July 2011). Two construction workers were killed and another nine injured in the collapse.

The report added that the underlying cause of the collapse was failure by main contractor Bouwcombinatie to carry out basic safety checks. Bouwcombinatie is a joint venture consisting of Dutch contractors Te Pas Bouw, Dura Vermeer and Treebe.

“Obligation to co-ordinate and check the performance of the work was the responsibility of the main contractor,” says the report.

“The investigation revealed the main contractor did not check the order and way in which the roof structure was being assembled.”

Checks not carried out

The report says that Bouwcombinatie’s failure to assign key safety responsibilities to individuals meant that checks were not carried out.

As a result Bouwcombinatie failed to check whether its steel sub-contractor Voortman Staalbouw was erecting the roof in the correct, specified manner. The omission of the lateral bracing in the roof caused it to become unstable and it collapsed as the structure was erected.

The new roof was part of FC Twente’s £44.1M expansion plans to increase the stadium from 13,500 capacity in 2006 to 32,000. The project was being carried out under a design and build contract.

The Dutch public prosecutor’s office - Openbaar Ministerie - will now consider the report before deciding whether to prosecute any of the parties involved.

Bouwcombanatie told NCE that it “should have paid more attention” to ensuring that there were good communications between the various parties on the site. It added it would do its “upmost” to ensure the report’s recommendations are embedded in the firm’s safety processes.

UK structural experts this week said it was unthinkable that there could have been such a breakdown of responsibilities.

“There seems to be an abdication of duty by the contractor,” said Confidential Reporting on Structural Safety (Cross) director Alastair Soane.

The report has been presented to client FC Twente, consultant the Stadium Consultancy, Bouwcombinatie, Voortman Staalbouw and the Dutch Construction and Infrastructure Federation. Each has up to six months to respond.

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