Bombs away

The Second World War (WWII) may have ended over 60 years ago but Unexploded Bombs (UXB) and other military ordnance can still be a serious problem to construction projects throughout the UK. There is currently, little publicly available guidance to specifically assist construction professionals (particularly clients, developers and ground-works contractors) in assessing the risks associated with encountering UXO during the intrusive engineering phase of a project.
This lack of previous guidance and direct legislation regarding the potential risks the construction industry faces from UXO hazards, and the limited knowledge many developers have on the subject, often means that construction professionals depend solely on specialist advice to deal with potential UXO risk at a site. This lack of guidance and understanding has resulted in project delays and growing widespread concerns that the construction industry is not being well served by UXO contractors; including:
• A lack of any consistency in the assessment and reporting of UXO risk
• An absence of quantifiable processes when assessing UXO risk.
• The perceived conflict of interest in a UXO specialist providing advice on required mitigation measures and then offering contractor services to mitigate their own assessed risk level.
What is the real UXO risk in the UK’ During WWII many defensive establishments, cities and towns throughout UK were subjected to comprehensive bombing campaigns, which resulted in extensive damage to city centre, railway infrastructure, docks, associated industrial areas and military installations. The German Luftwaffe mainly achieved this destruction by deploying High Explosive and Incendiary bombs.
In recent decades there have been several incidents in Europe where Allied UXBs have been detonated with at least three incidents causing fatalities. Although no fatal incidents related to UXB has occurred in UK, data from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal industry show that from 2006 to 2009 approximately 15,000 items of ordnance ranging from aerial delivered bombs to Land Service Ammunition (such as mortar rounds and grenades) have been removed from construction sites. Of that total, it is estimated that about 5% were live and still retained the ability to fully function.
Clients have a legal duty under CDM2007 to provide designers and contractors with the project-specific health and safety information needed to identify hazards and risks associated with the design and construction work. The possibility of UXO being encountered on a site falls within the category of a potentially significant risk and is therefore, a matter that should be addressed as early as possible in the lifecycle of a project.
“Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) – a guide for the construction industry”
14 October 2009
Place: America conference centre
1 America Square
17, Cross Wall London EC3N2LD
Tel: +44 (0)20 7549 3300
Tel: +44 (0)20 7549 3300

• In April 2009, 1,000 homes were evacuated in Plymouth when workers on a building site in the Prince Rock area discovered an UXB sticking six inches out of the ground. In the same month, a 200 metre cordon was put up near Oxford Road station in Manchester when workmen found an unexploded mortar shell on a building site.

• Bristol was severely disrupted June 2008 when a suspected WWII bomb was found on Land Securities’ and Hammerson’s, Cabot Circus retail development site, which closed much of the Broadmead area of the city for two days despite the suspicious object turning out to be a piece of reinforced concrete!

• In June 2008 a 1000kg bomb was found at Bow in East London during construction for the Olympic Games. The Police spokesperson said it was the largest unexploded bomb found in London in three decades. Services on two nearby subway lines were suspended as a precaution while the bomb was being defused

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