Engineering Failure(Case Study of Rana Plaza Collapse-An Example of Engineering Failure and it’s Devastating Effects)
1. ENGINEERING FAILURE
An Assignment Submitted to
Prof. Dr. A.S.M. Maksud Kamal
Department of Disaster Science and Management
Faculty of Earth and Environmental Science
University of Dhaka
What is Engineering Failure?
Engineering failure is something designed by an engineer that fails to complete its purpose of
existence and lead to disasters. Engineering failure occurs when an engineered system fails and
stops working which in turn may lead to a disaster. A "failure" should not be mistaken for a
"malfunction," in which case the system may work properly next time you turn it on.
The concept of failure is central to understanding engineering, for engineering design has as its
first and foremost objective the obviation of failure. Thus the colossal disasters that do occur are
ultimately failures of design, but the lessons learned from those disasters can do more to advance
engineering knowledge than all the successful machines and structures in the world. Indeed,
failures appear to be inevitable in the wake of prolonged success, which encourages lower margins
of safety. Failures in turn lead to greater safety margins and, hence, new periods of success. To
understand what engineering is and what engineers do is to understand how failures can happen
and how they can contribute more than successes to advance technology.
What are the Causes of Engineering Failure?
There are various causes behind engineering failure. The primary causes of engineering disasters
are given below:
I. Human Factors
Underestimation of influence
Ignorance, carelessness, negligence
Relying upon others without sufficient control
Objectively unknown situation
Unprecise definition of responsibilities
Choice of bad quality
knowledge of product use
Equipment safety protocol inadequately defined or not defined
Equipment safety protocol not adhered to by end user
Emergency procedures not installed
Inadequate review of safety protocol as related systems are updated
Improper or inadequate monitoring of installation or construction (engineer)
II. Design Flaws
Poor material choice
Improper or inadequate inspection protocol
inspection techniques not updated like design modifications and improved methods
Manufacturing flaw i.e. manufacturer has inadequate QA process
Emergency procedures are inadequate
Inadequate built in safety measures eg: redundant systems
Inadequate specifications or guidelines regarding construction process (eg.
where/how to stockpile raw materials)
inadequate or inappropriate hazard assessment and performance analysis
inadequate research and study of previous failures from similar designs
III. Inadequate consideration of the effect of surrounding systems (eg. Vibration frequencies,
corrosion due to specific metals contacting, effect of electromagnetic interference, etc.).
IV. Extreme conditions or environments, and, most commonly and importantly combinations
of these reasons.
Organizational Responsibility of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
Regional organizations and platforms are key to advancing disaster risk reduction. These regional
structures, including ministerial conferences and sub-regional inter-governmental initiatives, are
increasingly taking ownership for disaster risk reduction actions and following up on the Hyogo
Framework for Action
Regional organizations also known as the private sector is “the part of an economy in which goods
and services are produced and distributed by individuals and organizations that are not part of the
government or state bureaucracy (the private is referred as the profit sector, making sure to
distinguish between it and non-profit organizations).
The relationship between private investments and disaster risks has two sides. Private investments
(1) can be affected by disaster, and
(2) can generate or increase disaster risks.
Private investments may be affected by disasters-
Direct damage: impacts on industrial facilities and services, infrastructure, equipment, farming
areas, loss of stocks of raw materials and finished products.
Indirect losses: access problems, disruption of supply chains, labor, energy supplies, changes in
markets due to changes in priorities and loss of purchasing capacity.
Private investments can contribute or create risks-
Directly: construction of unsafe facilities and/or in areas at risk; degradation and environmental
pollution; production, use, storage and distribution of hazardous materials.
Indirectly: increased exposure to risks in their own production processes, and the supply chain and
distribution; generation of productive activities that result in relocation of its workers to risk prone
In both processes, being affected by a disaster or generating/increasing risks, consequences are
usually transferred from the private to the public sector or from one economic sector to another.
Though the private sector has clearly made important advances in terms of risk management, this
has not meant that good and comprehensive disaster risk reduction (DRR) practices have spread
throughout the entire sector. While numerous commercial and industrial companies have
participated in philanthropic response actions during disaster emergencies, less numbers of private
entities have incorporated business continuity plans into their daily operations as a way to protect
assets, production of goods and services, direct supply chains and growth plans from possible
Governments recognize the need for regional collaboration on disaster risk reduction and have
taken the initiative to organize ministerial conferences for disaster risk reduction. These conference
have successfully brought together key stakeholders including governments, regional inter-
governmental organizations, technical and scientific institutions involved in disaster risk
reduction, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, donors and the media.
Case Study of Rana Plaza Collapse-----An Example of Engineering Failure and it’s
On 24 April 2013, Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building, collapsed in Savar, a sub-
district in the Greater Dhaka Area, the capital of Bangladesh. The search for the dead ended on 13
May with the death toll of 1,129. Approximately 2,515 injured people were rescued from the
building alive. On Wednesday 24 April morning there was a power cut and diesel generators on
the top floor were started. The building collapsed at about 08:57am, leaving only the ground floor
intact. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president confirmed
that 3,122 workers were in the building at the time of the collapse.
It is considered to be the deadliest garment-factory accident in history, as well as the deadliest
accidental structural failure in modern human history. The building contained clothing factories, a
bank, apartments, and several other shops. The shops and the bank on the lower floors immediately
closed after cracks were discovered in the building. Warnings to avoid using the building after
cracks appeared the day before had been ignored. Garment workers were ordered to return the
following day and the building collapsed during the morning rush-hour.
Following the tragedy, an investigation conducted by the Home Ministry found several problem
with the construction and usage of the building which led to the engineering failure:
It was partially constructed on a water body.
The Bangladesh National Building Code was not followed.
Inferior quality construction materials were used.
Though the building was designed for six storeys, Savar City Corporation gave the owner
permission to add four additional floors. (A tenth floor was under construction at the time
of the collapse.)
Despite being designed for commercial use, the third to eighth floors housed garment
factories, each of which used heavy machinery not considered in the structural design.
The building also had large generators on the top floors, the weight and vibration of which
had contributed to the collapse.
Regarding the engineering failure of this infrastructure (The Rana Plaza), one can recommend the
following migratory measures for other similar infrastructures in order to prevent future disasters
I. Proper Sub-soil Investigation: Bearing capacity, soil density, liquid & plastic limit of soil
with corresponding static & dynamic condition of soil should be tested before an
infrastructure is built on it.
II. Proper Structural Design: Appropriate ratio of rod, concrete, cement and water is essential
to building strong infrastructures. The strength of the steel bars should be tested as well.
III. Construction: Using appropriate mortar(sand, cement & water mixture),reinforced material
and proper caring and monitoring.
IV. Monitoring, Supervision & Maintenance: Proper monitoring and supervision of all
materials should be maintained at the time of construction and the gas electricity and water
supply of the building and any other utilities should be regularly checked after construction.
V. Limited Building Use: The building must be used for the specific purpose for which it was
designed and built (it may be commercial, residential or industrial) and must be restricted
for use of any other purpose.
VI. Compliance of Utilities: Providing the building with sufficient gas, water and electricity