CROSS-AUS has been capturing near misses and lessons learned in the building industry for two years. But there’s more to be done.
A confidential reporting scheme for anyone involved in the design or construction of structures, Confidential Reporting on Structural Safety – Australasia (CROSS-AUS) aims to prevent future failures.
Now in its second year of operation, the group has published four newsletters and 24 reports, according to CROSS-AUS Director Mike Fordyce FIEAust CPEng.
“Our list of subscribers is now over 600 and continues to grow steadily,” Fordyce told create.
“However, we would like to see many more, and this is still one of our main challenges.”
Across the Tasman
To extend its reach, CROSS-AUS recently welcomed Engineers Australia, Engineering New Zealand and the Structural Engineering Society New Zealand (SESOC) as CROSS-AUS Supporters.
“The AUS in CROSS-AUS has always stood for Australasia, and in this past year we have established closer links with the structural engineering community in New Zealand, especially through SESOC,” Fordyce said.
“Three New Zealand structural engineers have joined our expert panel and around 60 New Zealand subscribers have recently signed up for our newsletters.”
Fordyce said one of the most common topics submitted in CROSS reports was the maintenance of structures.
“Problems with maintenance of structures — or lack thereof — have been with us for a long time and a search of the CROSS publications results in over 90 reports on this topic,” he said.
One example, report AUS-12 in CROSS-AUS Newsletter 3, highlighted problems with the maintenance of multi-storey buildings.
The report posed the question: Should a maintenance manual for the structure be included with the as-built documents along with the manuals that are provided for building services?
Similarly, report AUS-21 in CROSS-AUS Newsletter 4 raised an intriguing question about the “inspectability” of the voids incorporated into Super-T bridge construction.
“These have been used in bridge construction in Australia for 20 years and the report raises some concerns about their long-term durability and maintenance due to lack of access to inspect the sealed internal cavities,” Fordyce explained.
“CROSS has long recommended that all safety critical structures must be capable of being examined both during construction and during their operational life. Given that bridges have a design life of 100 years, and that there are so many of these structural forms in the Australian bridge network, it is an important question to pose to both designers and owners.”
Temporary works is another common theme captured through CROSS-AUS.
“[For example] report AUS-11 … is concerned that insufficient attention is paid to the erection of prefabricated concrete elements,” Fordyce said.
“The report notes that contractors will commonly split the prefabricated concrete works into a supply package and an erection package, with the award of each package commonly assigned to different organisations. When that happens, who then takes responsibility for the erection procedures?”
With COVID-19 causing challenges for most industries across the world, its impact on structural safety in Australia is another issue the group is keen to address.
“It raises questions such as: Does working from home reduce the effectiveness of quality control systems and robust design office checks? Are site inspections being carried out? In this time of rapid change, we should take a moment to take a step back and double-check that our safety assurance processes are being maintained and made even more resilient where possible,” Fordyce said.
“CROSS-AUS would welcome any reports on structural safety hazards that are a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Not a structural engineer? No problem
Former Chair and current member of Engineers Australia’s Structural College Board Karlie Collis FIEAust CPEng encouraged everyone involved in the construction industry to step up and contribute, not only structural engineers.
“We’d like to see builders, certifiers and others involved in the industry sign up, so that the whole team of people who are providing structures to the community are on the same page and learning from near misses,” Collis said.
“[CROSS-AUS] raises the bar in structural engineering. It’s one of those opportune moments to hone our craft, rather than working towards the bottom line, which can supersede our vision sometimes.”