Buildings are places where people go for shelter, so when those buildings fail to accomplish this the damage caused can be both physical and psychological. There are other structures that people expect to be structurally sound as well, such as decks, bridges, highways, and even building overhangs. When a building or other structure is built right, there are few incidents of structural collapse, especially under normal use. But there are some instances where structural collapses are more likely to cause trouble than others. Some of these include:
Structures that are undergoing construction and/or repairs. In order to assure that these are safe, both of these processes needs to be overseen by a qualified professional, such as an engineer in order to assure the structural integrity of both temporary and permanent supports.
Structures that have been compromised due to dangerous weather conditions. Every effort needs to be made by engineers to design buildings and other structures to withstand dangerous conditions, such as high winds, earthquakes, rain, water run-off, cold and hot temperature shifts, as well as the weight of heavy snow.
Structures that have been intentionally compromised by a terrorist attack. Placing explosives in and around buildings, or intentionally damaging the foundation or supports of a building may cause it to collapse under normal use. If this happens, engineers and rescue workers need to work together to evacuate anyone in danger, and rebuild the structure so that it is safe again.
Structures that have been built without the proper oversight by a qualified engineer or person with similar knowledge. Various safety codes are in place that need to be met whenever a structure is being built if it is going to be used in residential or commercial areas. In some cases, a DIY enthusiast may try to build something without obtaining the proper permit, and inadvertently put others at risk. If a person does not take the proper precautions in these situations, there is an increased risk that they may suffer a personal injury, or death, due to the lack of structural integrity.
Who is Most at Risk
- Construction Employees - Engineers need to oversee construction projects to see that the proper supports are put in place during the process in order to prevent the collapse of buildings or other structures that are in progress. If any of these supports need to be moved, it needs to be done with the proper protocol followed.
- Rescue Workers/Emergency Responders - A rescue worker often is of a single mind as he or she heads into a dangerous situation in order to get other people out of a dangerous situation as quickly as possible, while following safety guidelines outlined for Emergency Preparedness, set by OSHA. They may be headed into situations where a building or structure holding members of the public has been abruptly compromised, such as after an earthquake or fire. Wearing protective gear, working with others, and doing their jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible, may reduce their chance of serious injury
- General Public - If the structure of a building has been compromised, the general public may be at risk of injury. Also, if a construction zone is not properly maintained, and potentially unsafe areas cordoned off, this too can increase the chance of injury
Why Structures Collapse
Inclement weather, high winds, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, or heavy snow can put pressure on a structure's foundation or support beams, causing it to begin to collapse from within. Poor foundations or temporary supports that were to made sturdy enough in the first place or have unsafe modifications, such as the removal of lateral supports. Man-made or influenced disasters, such as fires caused by negligence or poor wiring, can weaken a structure and potentially cause its collapse.
There are many things that can be done in order to keep as many people as possible out of harm's way caused by a structural collapse. Unfinished sites, as well as many finished ones need to undergo regular monitoring to ensure that the building's structural integrity is still intact. Special care should be in place to assure that the design can handle extreme weather, including high winds, surface water and runoff. A large exclusion zone should also be set aside during construction to keep the general public and unauthorized persons out.
If you've been injured due to a structural collapse, chances are there's a lot to the story that isn't necessarily obvious. Having a good personal injury attorney on your side in this situation is extremely helpful, as they can help assure that the incident is being fully investigated, and the possibility of defective construction is explored. and they can help you record the financial impact of your injury in order to give you the best chance of getting the compensation you deserve.