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Last updated: October 14, 2018

What Does Collapse Mean?

A collapse refers to the failure of a structure or component to maintain its structural integrity. Structures that could collapse include buildings, bridges, and trenches.

The collapse of structures such as trenches and scaffolds are among the most common causes of worker injury in the construction industry. The hazards associated with a structural collapse include falling from the collapsed structure, being hit by falling material, and being crushed by debris. Emergency workers may face additional hazards related to collapse if their job requires them to enter collapsed structures.

Safeopedia Explains Collapse

Construction is a high-injury, high-fatality industry compared to other professions. Collapsed structures are a significant source of these injuries and fatalities. Due to the wide variety of structures that are at risk of collapse, there are a range of differing standards associated with preventing structural collapse. For instance, the standards associated with trench construction are different than those associated with bridge construction. Both, however, fall under Standard 1926, which covers construction.

In order to address the significant problem of building collapses, OSHA’s website provides a list of engineering reports on significant incidents, along with the legal penalties associated with them, standards violated, and any associated injuries and fatalities. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports an average of 54 fatalities annually between 1992 and 2000 due to trench hazards, 76% of which were due to collapses. Additionally, OSHA notes that trench collapses cause hundreds of injuries each year.

In addition to collapses caused by problems with engineering or safety measures, structural collapse can be caused by the application of external factors such as earthquakes, fire, and weather-related events. Structural collapse may also be caused by external human action against the structure, such as an accidental vehicular impact or explosion. Emergency workers and rescue workers face an additional set of hazards associated with having to enter collapsed structures. The possible failure of engineering controls due to collapse may create additional hazards. As such, there are an array of occupational protocols for emergency workers who deal with collapses.


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