Deterioration and failure of cold / frozen food store ceilings

Health and Safety Executive - Safety alert

Department Name:

Bulletin No:
CON 4-2010

Issue Date:
9 November 2010

Target Audience:
Manufacture/Storage/retail/frozen foods, Construction, Environmental Health Departments

Key Issues:
Structural failure of cold store ceilings due to fatigue and corrosion.


HSE has recently completed a fatal accident investigation following the failure of the ceiling of a frozen food store.

Two men fell to the floor of the store when insulation panels separated from the steelwork, which supported the ceiling. One of the men died from his injuries.


Deterioration of cold store ceiling

Deterioration of cold store ceiling

The store was constructed in the 1970s. The insulation panels consisted of a sandwich of steel sheets bonded to polyurethane foam. These were bolted to a metal support frame, with engineering grade plastic bolts. The manufacturer of the panels and bolts is unknown. The design is believed to have been common and there are likely to be many of these stores still in use.

Following the accident, the investigation revealed that the bolts had consistently failed at the point where the thread entered the metal nut which secured them into the supporting frame.  Tests have identified fatigue and corrosion (due to oxidation and exposure to chlorine) as the main reasons for the deterioration of the bolts.

Some of the bolts which had failed dropped down slightly but remained within the panels; others were flush but had also failed. Therefore there were no obvious signs of failure

Action required:

HSE reminds dutyholders that:

HSE asks dutyholders, with structures containing insulation panels that are suspended in a similar manner, to:

General note:

Please pass this information to colleagues who may have structures such as these