Preventing the collapse of reinforced concrete (RC) structures, support work and formwork during construction
A summary of a detailed report on an exploratory study by John Smallwood, Professor of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).
The report is dedicated to the improvement of Health and Safety (H&S) performance in South African construction, and more specifically, preventing the collapse of reinforced concrete (RC) structures, support work and formwork.
The study was prompted by the continuing occurrence of “collapses” of such structures. The resultant report underscores the need for a proactive approach to addressing these phenomena.
A number of construction companies participated in the research. Data produced revealed that 42 / 55 (76.4%) factors are of near major to major / major importance in terms of preventing the collapse of RC structures during construction. A further 12 / 55 (21.8%) factors are between important to more than important / more than important, and only one is between less than important to important / important.
A further 30 factors are of near major to major / major importance in terms of realising optimum support work and formwork, and the integrity of structures under construction.
Factor analysis identified six groups of factors relative to “the importance of preventing the collapse of RC structures during construction;” and five groups of factors relative to “the importance of optimum support work and formwork and the integrity of structures under construction.”
The Tongaat mall collapse, November 2013, in which two people died and 29 were injured
The traditional three project parameters, namely quality, cost, and time are perceived by respondent organisations to be more important than H&S, thus, it can be concluded that the industry collectively is perpetuating the paradigm to the detriment of H&S.
Competencies, design, registration of built environment professionals, Hairs, supervision, quality management, H&S management, risk management, planning and H&S planning in various forms, integration of design and construction, and the construction work permit, are all important as clusters, or are individually relative to preventing the collapse of RC structures during construction. Similarly, given the importance of factors relative to optimum support work and formwork and the integrity of structures under construction, and more importantly the identification of five “groups” of factors, it can be concluded that the requisite “cocktail” of factors must be in place and to an optimum extent.
Quality management, competencies, supervision, a range of support work aspects, inspections, circumspect loading, H&S management, planning and H&S planning in various forms, and conformance to requirements, are also all important as clusters or are individually relative to optimum support work and formwork and the integrity of structures under construction.
Ultimately, conformance to requirements is the key, which includes, among other, municipal approval of building plans, and the construction work permit. However, a pre-requisite for conformance is that many of the requirements should be scientifically evolved and communicated.
In parallel, the required competencies must exist for the aforementioned to be achieved. Competencies in turn can only be assured through a formal registration process such as that required by the six South African built environment councils. Registration of contractors should interrogate H&S, quality, and risk management systems and practices. Clearly, contractors should also be also be pre-qualified in terms of H&S, quality, and risk management systems and practices. Ideally, multi-stakeholder project H&S, quality, and risk plans should be evolved. Design and construction must be integrated and the “grey areas” relative to achieving same must be addressed.
General construction management and H&S planning must be a hallmark of all projects. Management and supervision are critical, as both planning and execution are important.
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