The collapse of over 26 tons of concrete ceiling panel from the Big Dig tunnel (Boston) caused the death of a lady and left her husband injured, on July 10, 2006. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed the parties who were responsible for the occurrence. Three primary parties that can be taken into account are: the construction contractors, Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and Power Fasteners, Inc. The construction contractors for the project were Gannett Fleming Inc.
And consultants Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff. It was their responsibility to study the design and ensure that the material used in construction was suitable for sustained usage. The neglect of the construction contractors to study the product features has lead to an unfortunate incident. In large projects it is essential to understand that the consequences of a small disregard can be dire. The adhesives should have been load tested to verify whether they could take the load and sustain over a long period of time, before they were put to use.
This is highly unethical, as it does not only speak about their ignorance about a raw material; it also portrays how they have neglected their duty towards the society’s welfare. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority should have also investigated the tunnels on a timely basis. This would have lead to an early discovery of the epoxy coming lose which could have avoided the unpleasant incident. Lastly and most importantly the manufacturers and marketers of the anchor epoxy Power Fasteners, Inc. the company knew that the epoxy were prone to creeps which would lead the ceilings to become lose.
However while marketing the product they kept this highly relevant information from the constructors. Power Fasteners knew that the adhesive was only meant for a short term usage yet they did not reveal this fact. Also in 1999 when a part of the Big Dig was displaced due to the occurrence of creep, the company still did not mention the above mentioned statistics. So the company had an opportunity to stop the event but they opt to keep quiet. Also Modern Continental Construction Co that had installed the adhesive epoxy loosely to the anchors is also guilty.
As they should have known that the raw material would not last long enough and should have warned the authorities. The manufacturing and marketers of the epoxy were charged with manslaughter as they knew about the possibility of such occurrence yet did not act to stop it. The other parties charged were not indicted. In my opinion the other parties responsible should have been charged as well. This would help serve as an example for the future construction agencies and higher authorities t o take a task more seriously. The loss of a life is severe and everyone accountable should be punished.
An article in City Journal points out how the report from National Transportation Safety Board, opined in its report that the consultants Bechtel/ Parsons were performing duties that should have been taken up by the state authority. (1) Thereby it shows how the government has failed to perform their role completely. All the employees responsible for it should be penalized and a stricter regulation should be guided to avoid further cases of similar nature. Also a review of the boston. com news reports shows that the Big Dig tunnel had been having problems from the very beginning.
The tunnel had been in news for the high price acceleration from the proposed $ 2. 4 billion in 1985 to $ $14. 6 billion in 2003. In the month of September 2004 water had gushed into the tunnel for hours from fissures. In November (2004) it was found that the entire tunnel had hundreds of breaches. Also a report in December (2004) mentioned how the use of slurry walls had lead to numerous cracks on the tunnel wall. The question that arises once all these publications have been studied is why steps and initiates weren’t taken in 2004. The state government should have investigated the tunnel and made amendments as it had promised.
(2) Further investigation on the case had also shown that poor work force was also responsible for the unfortunate accident. All in all the case speaks of great lack of care in carrying out the project and each person in every rank should be acted against for their act. The report made recommendations to the engineering society that they must learn to assess the sustainability of adhesive anchors before they are used for any kind of construction. The engineers should know about the raw materials basic requirements and educate themselves about the essential products used in their line of work.
With the advance of knowledge new products keep on entering the market so the engineers must always update his knowledge. The engineers should note this incident and ensure that hence forth they research on the characteristics of raw materials used. A person may not be able to know about every material in the market but it is important for him to be sincere in finding out about the features and any possible feature which may cause an accident. The design developers/engineers should always bare in mind the affect on the workers, neighboring places and primarily society at large.
Then he should balance his interest with the clients to bring forth the best results. The rules for Administration of the Engineer’s and Structural Engineer’s Act states that if the engineer opines that a construction may cause harm to public health or property then they must notify the authorities, clients and employees immediately. (3) Future recommendations: The big dig collapse should serve as an example. The Government should try and make such amendments which lead to a greater intervention of higher authorities to ensure that all responsibilities are being carried forth according to set standards and requirements.
Also a division of power and accountability should take place so that sole authority does not lie in just a few hands. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority had not intervened to inspect the work of the consultants Bechtel and Parsons. If there would have been a balanced amount of interception from their end to inspect the ongoing work, the calamity could have been avoided in the very initial phase. However for future projects a measure should be taken to divide a large work into smaller projects so that separate consultants can review the work of their peers and make corrections in the preliminary design to avoid such errors.
A certain part can also be kept in house so that the presence of someone from within the organization will help them know about the actual functionality better. The Authority should also structure a scheduled plan which covers each construction site to be reviewed from time to time, so that no life is endangered in the future and any fall outs may be rectified early. The construction agencies should also follow the basic code of ethics they are to follow.
According to the Engineer’s Act, the Architect’s Act, and the Structural Engineer’s Act design professionals are required to constantly update themselves with the knowledge and skills required in their area of work. If the construction agency would have acquired the professional knowledge required while choosing the adhesive for construction they would know that it is meant only for short term use. By their incompetence the firm has not only ruined their reputation but also made the knowledge set of other players in the market, come into serious questioning.
The rules also state that the architects and consultants working on a project must be qualified (academically and in practice) in the specific area of technicality, and should take reasonable care to apply the knowledge. So any future project should be allocated to only a construction agency which is competent enough to fulfill the responsibilities. There can also be a likely intervention from the government to ensure that the essential tests are being conducted at each phase of construction to avoid any misshapenness in the future. (3)
Lastly every company should try and fulfill their corporate social responsibilities truthfully. Misleading the customers about the product features and hiding important characteristics of the product is highly unethical. Any organization which sells poor quality products which are unsafe for use will develop a negative image in the minds of the consumer. With growing stress on social responsibilities it is very important for a company to have an ethical image, to gain a sustainable competitive advantage from its competitors in the market.
Also many legal actions can be taken against a company for misleading a consumer to purchase a product and this can also lead to financial damage. (4) It is not possible for authority alone to enforce a law each organization must take the initiative to follow the rules and regulations and comply with them. The people are the most crucial part of any company’s success and any company that does not fulfill its customer’s needs shall not flourish in today’s global horizon.
The Big Dig incident had brought a discomfort and mistrust in the minds of the society at large and they feared facing similar instances. Thereby severe action should be taken and the episode must serve as an example for all parties interested. Reference: 1. http://www. city-journal. org/html/17_4_big_dig. html 2. http://www. boston. com/news/specials/big_dig_problems/ 3. Ethics in Engineering, Second edition, Mike Martin, Roland Schinzinger, McGraw-Hill, 1989 4. http://dspace. iimk. ac. in/bitstream/2259/392/1/17-27. pdf
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