Causes of Catastrophic Failure in Construction

Accessing papers

If you are logged in as a member or a registered academic, you will see a link to download the paper for FREE. The link is just above the Add to Cart button.

If you wish to purchase the paper, you must be logged in first (click here to log in, or click here to register). You will then see the Add to Cart button. You may also have a choice of preferred format if both are available - PDF download costs £3 inc VAT, printed version costs £7.50 inc postage (no VAT). Choosing one or the other changes the price displayed.

When you are ready to check out, use the 'View basket' link in the top left of the website.

Sean Brady

March 2017

A paper presented to the Society of Construction Law at a meeting in London on 7th February 2017

Central to preventing catastrophic failures in the construction sector is a knowledge of their underlying causes.  However, construction and engineering are by their very nature technical professions, and there can be a temptation to relegate the causes of these failures as being purely technical in nature.  But is this the case or do human beings play a bigger role?  This paper examines the interaction between technical and human factors in failure causation, and concludes that while failures stem from technical issues, it is human fallibility that allows these issues to culminate in catastrophe.

Introduction – Two failures: technical causes – The Quebec Bridge: technical cause – The Quebec Bridge: human causes – Two failures: human causes – Closure.

The author: Sean Brady is a forensic structural engineer who specialises in identifying the cause of defects and failures in the construction and engineering sectors; he is managing director of Brady Heywood Pty Ltd. 

Text 12 pages.

Paper number: 
D200
March 2017, online, 440k
£3.00

Our papers

The Society has published nearly 400 papers since 1984. Some are published both in hard copy and electronically (numbered), others in electronic format only (number prefixed 'D'). The hard copy papers can be purchased (except those marked with an asterisk which are no longer available). They are all also available as PDF files to download.

Those available as downloads can be accessed free by members and registered academics (students and staff) - if logged in, they will see a link to the file just above the Add to Cart button on each paper's page. Others can purchase the PDF file for a cost of £3.00. Note that this sum includes VAT, since VAT is chargeable on digital files.

For further instructions on downloading, click here. The PDF file will only open on your computer if you have Adobe Acrobat installed (to obtain a free copy, click here). To save the paper to your computer, choose the 'save' icon on the Acrobat toolbar before opening the paper.

For personal use only

The papers on this website are for use by SCL members (and those who pay for them) only, and papers may be downloaded, printed and/or otherwise retained for that purpose only by members of the SCL (and those who purchase them).  The availability of all papers past and present represents a significant benefit to members of SCL and wider dissemination of SCL papers dilutes that to the detriment of the membership.  Further and more importantly, copyright in the papers belongs jointly to the writers of the paper and to the SCL, and the SCL is not therefore in a position to provide any wider licence.  Accordingly the SCL asks members and those who purchase papers not to disseminate papers more widely than their licence allows (e.g. by posting them on internal legal resource intranet databases and the like). 

Feedback