Uncovering Unexploded Ordnance

Today we woke up to reports of a huge unexploded World War II bomb being identified at a building site in Southwark, south London.

With households within the vicinity evacuated while the Army manages the safe removal of the device, it highlights the importance of undertaking Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) assessments at the outset of any building development works, as the probability of identifying UXO originating from the Second World War might not be as uncommon as you think.  

According to the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA), between 2006 and 2009, approximately 15,000 devices were removed from construction sites – of which 5% were live.

Add to this, it has been reported that during WWII over 17,000 tonnes of explosive fell on London alone, with figures suggesting that approximately 10% did not detonate on impact. 

 

Site Assessments:

 Help is available to the construction industry: the first port of call is a desktop tool called a Preliminary UXO Risk Assessment. It quickly provides a 'yes/no' answer as to whether there is any risk of encountering a bomb. It has been developed in line with guidance from CIRIA and endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive.

If a positive ‘yes’ output is identified, the next stage of assessment is to conduct a Detailed UXO Risk Assessment. This will detail the type of threat, the size, origin and also takes into account the proposed construction method and how that would impact on risk of detonation.  Risk mitigation measures are then provided to allow construction to proceed.

 

The ‘Bomb Search’ assessments are available from Envirocheck, part of Landmark Information Group, and are provided by renowned experts in the field of UXO, 6 Alpha Associates.

 

Talking about the potential risks, Simon Cooke, Managing Director at 6 Alpha Associates, in partnership with Landmark Information Group, said:

“Encountering an unexploded bomb on a construction site is a low probability but extremely high consequence event, particularly when you take into account potential loss of life. Not to mention shock waves which could spread underground for some distance, causing damage to foundations and other underground works.   As we see it, it is the potential consequence, rather than the probability, which really drives the importance of undertaking detailed risk assessments before any work starts.”

 Ultimately, at the start of any new ground works project, the first stage Preliminary search is a must. While the potential risk may be considered small, it is clear it should not be overlooked for the ultimate safety of all concerned.

 

More details regarding Envirocheck Bomb Search can be found here:

 More details regarding 6 Alpha can be found here:

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