Loughborough University
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Preventing catastrophic events in construction

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posted on 2013-04-25, 10:27 authored by Alan Gilbertson, Joseph G. Kappia, Lee S. Bosher, Alistair G.F. Gibb
The construction industry recognises the hazardous nature of its activities, which can be seen in the high toll of accidents its workers suffer compared with other industries - ranging from lost time injuries to fatalities. There is also a high incidence of ill-health among construction workers, including fatal diseases such as cancer arising from asbestos exposure. However, the industry may not be sufficiently aware of the potential for it to be associated with more major or catastrophic events (those involving multiple deaths and/or significant damage to property and infrastructure). Larger construction organisations have been applying ‘holistic’ risk management techniques to manage project risk. Low probability but high-consequence issues have often been included in these considerations. Most issues addressed have had purely commercial consequences eg sudden loss of a major contract or customer. However, some issues do have significant health and safety implications. This project has examined these ‘low probability but high-consequence’ safety hazards by looking at: n the types of catastrophic event which have occurred or which might occur during construction; n the reasons for occurrence when there have been (or could have been) catastrophic events during construction, including an examination of the underlying factors; n the controls which should contribute to an avoidance of a catastrophic event; and n where the UK construction industry could improve. This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.


Health and Safety Executive (HSE)



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering


GILBERTSON, A. ... et al., 2011. Preventing catastrophic events in construction. Prepared by CIRIA and Loughborough University for the Health and Safety Executive. RR834.


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