Skip to main content

Control measure
Assess and monitor structural integrity: Structural defect or further collapse

Control measure knowledge

The suitability of any structure in supporting the use of work at height equipment must be considered. Structures that are not stable, or where there is doubt about structural integrity, should not be considered as platforms for working at height unless additional secondary systems are put in to place to add protection for the operators. For example, a combination of ladders and rope systems may be used to access fragile surfaces.

The suitability of a structure to support ladders and rope or line systems needs to be assessed, along with its ability to withstand forces created by rescue loads and dynamic events.

Fire and rescue services may attend incidents involving partially or fully collapsed structures. This not only includes buildings but also transport infrastructure such as rail or road bridges.

Collapses may occur without warning, so it is very important that the structure is assessed at the earliest opportunity. Assessment, which should continue throughout the incident, may be carried out at various levels, for example, by first responders, urban search and rescue (USAR) technicians or structural engineers. For more information on assessing structural collapse see National Operational Guidance: Fires in buildings and Fires in buildings under construction or demolition.

When crews need to work in or near a damaged structure, it must be monitored. Monitoring should follow a risk assessment and implementation of control measures, and it should be continuous. Search and rescue responders should accompany personnel when monitoring the structure.

Monitoring is carried out at three levels:

  • Initial: first responders
  • Detailed: urban search and rescue (USAR) technicians
  • Specialist: structural specialists

The urban search and rescue (USAR) capability includes personnel trained in monitoring collapsed structures with specialised equipment.

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Ensure that competent personnel assess and monitor the suitability of the structure for work at height activities
  • Ensure that all personnel are fully briefed on the current hazards, risks, control measures and tactical mode
  • Ensure that minimum numbers of crew work in the hazard area and that emergency procedures are in place
  • Consider the integrity of the surrounding structures and environment before, during and after space creation

  • Identify building construction, cause and type of collapse and any potential for further collapse