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Life guards

Letters

The last few months have seen a string of building collapses in Poland, Germany and Russia and most recently the failure of the roof to a Moscow market. They have resulted in a large number of deaths.

Although heavy snow appears to be a common reported factor, it would nonetheless be wrong at this stage to speculate as to the specific causes when no definitive information is yet available. It is understanding the root cause that is the key to future safety assurance and this may be very different from the immediate cause.

We might be tempted to think that this is a problem for others; after all, failure of completed structures is rare to non-existent in the UK. Complacency however is a dangerous attitude - structural integrity is only assured through constant vigilance, not only of the design and construction process but also of the maintenance regime and use over a facility's life.

John Carpenter, secretary, SCOSS, 11 Upper Belgrave Street, London SW1X 8BH

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