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FALSEWORK COLLAPSE DURING CONCRETE POUR IN NEW YORK

Incident picture illustrates potential for catastrophe in a falsework collapse

The Wall Street Journal online has reported that one workman died and four others were injured when a building under construction collapsed in Brooklyn on 8th November 2011. The collapse is reported to have occurred “after fresh concrete was improperly poured on the third floor before the second floor”.

New York City’s buildings commissioner said:

“We were able to determine that they were placing the concrete in the wrong sequence, and we believe that that is a major contributor to this collapse. What we believe happened today was that they started from the top and worked their way down.”

He added that his department will be investigating the role of the contractor, superintendent of construction and the engineer and would involve a piece by piece “forensic engineering analysis.”

The Daily News has reported that engineer Steve Snieder alleges lighter gauge steel than required was used for the floor decking and that joists were secured with nails and clamps instead of welding or fastening them with special screws.

Schneider was responsible for checking before workers started pouring concrete but claims the contractor failed to notify him that the work was to begin. He said he would not have approved pouring the concrete.

One worker was killed and four injured in the collapse Tuesday.

The New York City Department of Buildings issued nine Environmental Control Board violations against SP&K following the collapse, department spokeswoman Jennifer Gilbert said Sunday. Officials determined that crews had started pouring concrete on upper floors before the floors below were completed, she said.

Collapse occurred without warning 

New York City Fire Capt. William Gallagher said firefighters found the floors of the five-story building had collapsed in what he described as a V-shape. Two of the workers had managed to get out and another man was visible trapped up to his chest in debris and wet concrete.

A workman on site said workers had almost finished laying the second floor when:

“the building just gave way. It just came right down. It didn’t give a warning. It just buckled. I saw one of the construction workers trying to run and the whole thing…started coming down like thunder. I saw slabs just come buckling down and then the screaming and the yelling.”

Comment

There have been no major UK falsework collapses in recent years. This incident highlights the potential for catastrophe in the absence of proper planning, erection, loading or dismantling of falsework.

HSE guidance states that “investigations into falsework collapses have identified a lack of co-ordination between the various trades and suppliers of falsework as a major cause”.

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