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SCOSS safety fears

INCREASED COMMERCIAL pressures on civil and structural engineers are threatening to undermine the profession's safety culture, the Standing Committee on Structural Safety warned this week.

In its twelfth bi-annual structural safety report, published this week, SCOSS urged the profession to guard against 'the pervasive trends and changes' which it fears could undermine construction safety.

'There is a strong tendency among those in government and others who are responsible for structural maintenance and procurement resources to make the comfortable assumption that all is well and will continue to be well even if resource is reduced,' says the report.

The report's main recommendation was for a complete review of current structural codes of practice. It said there was a growing number of codes containing 'inaccuracies and confusions' within them. SCOSS is also concerned that codes fail to distinguish between performance requirements, principles and rules and that engineers are often using out-of-date or obsolete standards in design.

The report backs the view of a forthcoming HSE report on the structural assessment of railway bridges. This is expected to identify 'a need for review and examination of current practice in the structural assessment of UK rail bridges.'

SCOSS's report says that 'a group of independent experts has to be established to assist assessments where high risks to people and the environment have to be accepted, high costs will arise for maintenance and repair, or safety can only be evaluated quantitatively.'

It recommends that rail underbridge owners should consider keeping safety files on their structures as part of a framework for safety management. This would ensure a consistent approach and reduce the risk of commercial or other pressures causing vital checks to be missed.

(See Analysis page 10)

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