Bilfinger Berger appoints external experts

By Chris Sleight09 March 2010

Bilfinger Berger has appointed a panel of industry experts to review its quality management systems, following the revelations that key reinforcement components were left out of diaphragm walls on rail projects in Cologne and Düsseldorf.

The group will be led by Professor Jürgen Diederichs, formerly of Bergischen University in Wuppertal, Germany and recognised authority on quality management in the construction sector. The commission will report to Professor Hans Helmut Schetter, a member of the Bilfinger Berger Executive Board.

A second group has been set up under the leadership of Professor Jürgen Schnell of the Kaiserlautern Technical University to check foundation structures built using similar techniques to those used in Cologne and Düsseldorf. The company described this as a "Precautionary measure."

Bilfinger Berger executive chairman Herbert Bodner said, "As a result of recent events, the spotlight has shifted to the quality of our work. It is important to me that one thing is clear - Bilfinger Berger has a quality management system that has been proven time and again."

He continued, "The cases in Cologne and Düsseldorf nevertheless show that errors can occur in the implementation - namely in the on-site quality control. I assure you that we are doing everything in our power to uncover and eliminate possible weaknesses of application."

According to the company, the omission of dowel bar reinforcements between diaphragm wall sections on the two projects was the action of rouge employees. Mr Bodner said, "We must assume that long-term well-paid employees of Bilfinger Berger intentionally manipulated technical documentation and that they failed to install reinforcement components. Personal misconduct of this kind is absolutely unacceptable and contrary to all of the values that Bilfinger Berger stands for. We will not tolerate such behaviour and have of course taken all the necessary legal steps."

Mr Bodner also stressed that the cause of the collapse of the archive building in Cologne was still under investigation, and that the company did not believe it was not due to the omission of dowel bars. "In the heated discussion about missing shear dowels and inaccurate measurement protocols, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that they are in no way related to the accident last year," said Mr Bodner.

Investigations into the building collapse are now thought to focus on unexpected ground conditions and the amount of ground water that was pumped out around the excavation.

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