Despite the best intentions of the design team the safety of a project mainly lies in the hands of the Contractor carrying out the work. Without sufficient care and attention on site any project can suffer from a lack of appreciation of the inherent risks of construction works beneath and adjacent to existing structures. With the recent trend towards the separation of permanent works from temporary works comes the risk of a fundamental misunderstanding of the structural principles used in either design.
Making the Contractor responsible for the design of the temporary works can bring benefits to a project and clarify duties and responsibilities. However, if the Contractor is unfamiliar with the requirements of temporary works design and does not engage a suitably qualified temporary works designer, things can go wrong. A recent project in west London suffered partial collapse from a lack of clarity in the temporary works design and a shortfall in the understanding of the exact function of the temporary works by those on site.
Clear communication and awareness of each party’s responsibilities is of paramount importance if similar collapses are to be avoided. Perhaps the best way to achieve this is to revert to the traditional and proven arrangement of retaining the same engineer to design both the permanent and temporary works?