- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 13 Nov 2020
Structural steelwork: a quality perspective
 Introduction and executive summary
Structural steel is defined as ‘manufactured structural components supplied individually or in kit form and intended to be used in any form, including temporary construction works (excluding marine and offshore). It is generally engineered specifically for the project therefore a competent structural engineer is the starting point for getting the right quality.
The British Construction Steelwork Association (BCSA) is the national organisation for the steel construction industry. Its member companies undertake the design, fabrication, finishing and erection of steelwork for all forms of construction in building and civil engineering. It provides guidance and many useful resources for design and construction quality management. The National Structural Steelwork Specification sets out a consistent approach for fabrication and erection of steelwork.
In order to gain this certificate they will have been inspected and certified as complying with the harmonised standard BS EN 1090-1 which is supported by the execution (fabrication and erection) standard BS EN1090-2 and are required to make a declaration of performance which can be supported by objective evidence.
As this is a legal requirement it is important that the construction quality manager understands the process.
 Guidance for construction quality management professionals
Steel’s low cost, strength, durability, and recyclability continue to make it a useful choice for structural members and architectural details. It is generally engineered specifically for each project. Typically, it will be encountered in building frames, staircases, balustrades, barriers and even temporary works structures.
- Description and purpose of the structure;
- Details of the construction site;
- Design drawings;
- Design specification and standards;
- Loading data;
- Any special fabrication or finishing requirements, and
- An outline method of erection.
 Timely and accurate exchange of information is very important.
The construction schedule should allow for a review of the computer model and calculations. Typically, the engineer is responsible for structural analysis, overall stability and design of the primary structural members; and the steelwork contractor is responsible for connection design, secondary steelwork, co-ordination with other suppliers such as cladding, fire protection and painting. However, this can vary, the guidance is to ensure that accountabilities are clear.
 Prepare a written method statement in accordance with the Construction (Design and Management) (CDM) Regulations.
The fabricator should ensure material grade and quality are identifiable within the manufacturing process. For example, when steel sections and plate are cut, individual pieces should be controlled so that the correct material is always used. Forming, cutting and joining process can impact the properties of the steel and should be closely controlled by authorised, competent people.
 The management of welding should meet the quality requirements of BS EN ISO 3834-3.
Testing of welders and welding operators should be witnessed and the certificates then endorsed by a competent examiner. Welding procedures should also be verified and approved by a competent examiner. Technicians carrying out non-destructive testing of welds should hold a current certificate of competence from a nationally recognised body.
BS EN ISO 14731 sets out welding coordination - tasks and responsibilities. The responsible welding co-ordinator has wide-ranging duties, including review of material types and weld-joint properties, production planning, developing work instructions and welding procedures as well as inspection and testing for quality control.
Example of a quality assurance checklist for welded connections:
- Designer competence
- General arrangement drawings have references to connection design calculations
- Drawings show requirements for connections
- Welding co-ordinator assigned and competent
- Welding documentation:
- Material and consumable certificates
- Welding procedure qualification records
- Welding procedure specifications / work instructions
- Welder qualification certificates
- Welding inspector competence
- Visual inspection records
- Non-destructive testing practitioner competence
- NDT records and testing equipment calibration certificates.
Accuracy of fabrication, and joint fit-up for connections, should be closely supervised and controlled.
Prepare a detailed method statement for protective treatment applications and ensure that items are stored, transported and erected so as to minimise damage. Intumescent coatings require particular focus so that they perform as intended, when needed.
 Example of a quality assurance checklist for protective treatments:
- Designer, applicator and coating inspector competence;
- Approved drawings and specification received;
- Specified products stored correctly;
- Steel surface cleaned and prepared to standard;
- Environmental conditions (relative humidity and steel and temperature);
- Wet- and dry-film thickness measurements;
- Over coating and curing times;
- Adhesion checks;
- Aesthetic quality of finish, and
Samples and benchmarks make quality standards visible and demonstrate that they are achievable. Agree a schedule of samples and benchmarks and ensure that all interested parties are involved at the right time to optimise the likelihood of a successful outcome for all stakeholders.
Important characteristics typically include:
- Tolerance on dimensions and shape;
- Fracture toughness;
- Load bearing capacity;
- Fatigue strength;
- Resistance to fire, and
- Durability and maintainability.
- Determine consequence class, eg an agricultural building with few users or a concert hall or grandstand packed with thousands of people;
- Define the service category, eg static, fatigue or seismic loads;
- Define the production category, eg is the steel grade higher or lower than S355;
- Define the execution class, this is derived from a table using the consequence class, service category and production category, typically EXC2
It is the responsibility of the structural engineer to define the execution class required.
- Factory Production Control Certificate - issued by a notified body;
- Welding Certificate - issued by a notified body;
- Declaration of Performance - issued by the steelwork contractor.
 Special appointments
The responsible welding co-ordinator (RWC) is an appointment mentioned in the NSSS. The RWC is appointed by the fabricator and is responsible for certifying the works to the purchaser/client. The purchaser/client may choose to formally accept or reject the RWC. If accepted the RWC becomes the authority for the quality of the steel work under his remit.
The bolting co-ordinator is a specialist appointment currently only applicable to bridges and highways. The BCSA defines competency and testing requirements for the bolting co-ordinator who is primarily responsible for ensuring all bolted connections are correct.
Further information sources
- SteelConstruction.info, the free encyclopaedia for UK steel construction information
- BCSA is the national organisation for the steel construction industry
- The Welding Institute
- The British Institute of Non Destructive Testing
- The Institute of Corrosion
- Fire Protection Association
Steel Industry Guidance Notes: SIGNS SN19 - Intumescent Coatings (SteelConstruction.org)
RWC - Responsible Welding Co-ordinator
--ConSIG CWG 14:57, 05 Jan 2019 (BST)
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Assurance and self-certification.
- Concrete vs. steel.
- Concrete-steel composite structures.
- Design freeze: a quality perspective.
- Installing fire protection to structural steelwork (GG 85).
- Passive and reactive fire protection to structural steel (IP 6 12).
- Procuring steel in major projects.
- Quality culture and behaviours.
- Steel construction floor vibration.
- Steel Council.
- Steel frame.
- Steel reinforcement.
- Structural steel.
- The use of stainless steel in civil engineering.
Featured articles and news
Proper materials and maintenance can help reduce rust.
Is the construction sector responding to calls for ED&I?
Engineers pay tribute by sharing their memories.
The hidden price of infrastructure.
BREEAM incorporates wellbeing into its Building Back Better programme.
Administration signals policy changes on some building-related issues.
From inns and coaching houses to boutiques.
Survey reveals green skills gap.
America's economic collapse produced scores of PWA Moderne projects.
The benefits of glowing aggregates and cement.
Urgent need for open communication to address mental health issues.