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Letters: Chemical fixings must be treated with caution

Chemical fixings findings; site experience vital; Heathrow runway debate



Chemical fixings: Short cuts and failures to follow manufacturers instructions can undermine their function

I am not surprised at the findings of the chemical fixings survey (NCE 10 September). One might have thought therefore that engineers would not specify them for safety-critical applications. However the article implies that the important health warning in their use is still not sufficiently widely broadcast.

I learned to beware chemical fixings about 30 years ago when they were approved as an alternative to cast-in anchors in the soffit of a bridge deck. A batch was installed and left overnight.

The next day it was discovered that uncured resin had dripped from the holes and some of the fixings had actually dropped out under their own weight! An investigation identified the cause to be a shortcut taken during insertion of the fixings into the holes. Instead of following the manufacturer’s instruction to use the drill to spin them into the hole they had been hammered in.

The holes contained a cartridge with two-part epoxy that needed to be thoroughly mixed. Had the holes been orientated other than overhead, this serious error would likely have gone undiscovered during construction.Owing to their high sensitivity to poor workmanship and consequent dramatically reduced performance, designers should always treat chemical anchors with great caution and, for safety-critical applications, should probably avoid them.

  • David McCluskey (M retd) 1 Western Field, Manor Rd, Sidmouth EX10 8RR

Site experience aids good design

I am a researcher undertaking a PhD in building information modelling and health and safety at Glasgow Caledonian University. Having spent 30 years working for consulting engineers, my research focuses on the safety of designs.

As part of my work I have undertaken hazard perception tests on 47 final year civil engineering students at a leading English university and the structural engineering department at a major firm of consulting engineers. The students had undertaken a 12 month industrial placement either on site or in design/clients offices and half of the practitioners had gained full time site experience.

For the test the students and engineers were asked to identify safety hazards that had been purposefully incorporated into the design of a four storey reinforced concrete framed office block produced specifically for the test. Following the identification of a hazard, the participants were asked how it could be mitigated. The test participants were provided with the design information in both 2D and 3D formats.

The outcome was that for the practising engineers, 74% of the category 1 hazards were identified by engineers who had full time site experience. Similarly, 64% of the category 1 hazards were identified by students who had full time site experience.

I am aware that these results have been generated from two tests and that care must be taken not to draw the wrong conclusion. However, there is much anecdotal evidence that site experience aids good design; I would now suggest that we have some empirical evidence that is identifying a potential link between safe designs and site experience.

  • Graham Hayne (M)


Chinese puzzle

Mark Hansford tells us how much we can learn from China about project delivery (NCE 1 October). How very true! I am quite sure we could deliver projects rapidly and at much lower costs if we had a centralised dictatorship with no public consultation whatsoever.

It might perhaps have been more relevant had he pointed out that a nation which places a value alleged to be in the order of £40,000 on every commonplace Great Crested Newt certainly has something to learn about project delivery in a world that does not owe us a living.

  • David Cooper (F)

Heathrow runway will never be built

heathrow third runway

Third runway: Too many objections

Your article about airport expansion (NCE 24 September) omitted the one dominating factor. Heathrow’s third runway is undeliverable because its opponents will use every device in the book to delay it. By the time the arguments are resolved, Gatwick’s second runway could be up and running. The pragmatic conclusion is to build the runway that is achievable: ie at Gatwick. Indeed stop procrastinating!

  • Mike Keatinge (M Retd), Highbank, Marston Road, Sherborne Dorset DT9 4BL

Euston needs fresh approach

I do not believe that creativity can be delegated (NCE 17 September). A person is either born with or without creativity. Computers are not creative; they always produce the same result to the same problem.

In the case of Euston Station, I would expect the same team has been regurgitating the same problems for two or three years and no one can see the wood for the trees. A fresh, experienced and independent face can totally change the dynamics.

The simpler the solution, the more effective it will be.

  • Richard Smart (F Rtd)


Minor improvement for major outlay

So it can be done! Come 2026, people will at last be able to access the 1865-built Euston Square station platforms from Euston Station without having to walk, at street level, over
the entire length of those platforms, amid pollution levels frequently exceeding safety guidelines, to use the stairs at the extreme far end.

Can anyone enlighten us as to why it will by then (assuming no slippage) have taken 161 years, a Royal Assent, and a national multi-billion pound vanity project that many see as a white elephant, to achieve this most obvious, modest, improvement?

  • Roger Juer,

A chance for engineers to shine

In 2012 the Labour Party commissioned Sir John Armitt (the next ICE President) to undertake an independent review of long term infrastructure planning in the UK. During 2010-2015, the coalition government took an axe to infrastructure projects, skewered on the stake of deficit reduction. No wonder that the Institute of Fiscal Studies and other commentators are amused atthe Conservatives’ recent conversion to infrastructure as one of their flagship policies.

This is our opportunity to make the public aware that civil engineering is the bedrock of civilisation.

  • Peter Mason

Meccano revives Tinsley memories

Tinsley viaduct construction

Like Meccano: Tinsley structure

Recent coverage of the Meccano bridge in Belfast has reminded me of having been on site at Tinsley Viaduct, Sheffield, during most of 1967 (NCE 1 October.
I have a photograph (originally a Kodachrome slide) which is an unrepeatable view of the skeletal Tinsley Viaduct before its two road decks were cast, and lacking the later strengthening.
Bolted from highly-standardised components, there was a clear resemblance to a giant Meccano set.

  • David Gregg

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