George Binning & Ishbell Begg
Crichton Campus’ newly opened £37 million super campus was evacuated, after pieces of wooden cladding fell from heights of up to 30 feet, whilst students worked at the check in desk just yards away.
Crichton University Campus Students Association (CUCSA) officially reported health and safety concerns after wooden cladding attached to the window fittings were blown down on several occasions. In a letter sent to David Deakins and Ted Cowan, the campus directors, CUCSA’s Student Welfare Officer, Laura Hill, states that debris had fallen from the library ceiling in the extreme weather conditions.
She said: “One piece of lining was eventually blown so strongly that it forced a louver from its position in the window frame just below the ceiling of the library, smashing onto the floor just in front of the library check-in desk. We immediately evacuated the students from the library as a safety precaution.”
She goes on to say that in the following two weeks pieces of the building continued to fall, whilst students were still in the building, raising serious safety issues.
She said: “It concerns me that the college has not closed the library and canteen area to students and they are still being allowed into the space when it is obviously dangerous.”
A spokesperson for Dumfries and Galloway College clarified what had happened.
She said: “What had happened was that the ventilation system in the library was still being completed by the contractors and the louvres within the library itself were just being completed. Whilst that was happening there were a lot of high winds through the building creating quite a lot of draughts, so the contractor had put up temporary sheeting. When the winds got up really high and it caught the edge and knocked one of the louvres.”
In addition to the falling louvers, CUCSA’s letter reports: “a loose floor tile…numerous cable/socket covers which stick up from the floor creating a tripping hazard, water leaking in through the ‘stable doors’, and numerous other ‘minor’ problems.’”
CUCSA officially reported their concerns to Ted Cowan, director of Glasgow University at Crichton campus, and David Deakins, director of the University of West Scotland at Crichton, on 6th October.
Over a week later, on October 14th, Darren Vidler, Vice President of CUCSA, sent another letter re-emphasising their concerns. One major worry expressed was of the hazard posed by the lack of an exclusion zone around the temporary scaffolding. Following this, David Deakins and Carol Turnbull, the Assistant Principal of Dumfries and Galloway College an urgent meeting in which it was decided to cordon off the scaffolding.
However, Laura Hill was sceptical of the effectiveness of the measures that were taken.
She told Guardian: “The ‘cordoning off’ was by was of a very flimsy red and white tape strapped around various items including wheely computer chairs.”
A University spokesperson assured Guardian that health and safety was at the top of the University’s agenda, and that all reasonable measures had been taken.
He said: “The welfare of students and staff is always a priority for the University of Glasgow and we take every step to ensure that is not compromised at any time.”
In reply to Darren Vidler, Carol Turnbull assured CUCSA that health and safety regulations were being followed but admitted that there had been ‘teething problems’.
She told him: “As with any new build, there are some teething problems which we are working on with the contractors to resolve as quickly as possible.”
The University spokesperson drew attention to the merits the building will offer the campus once the initial difficulties had been overcome.
He said: “The Crichton library, located within the new Dumfries & Galloway College building, is nearing final completion. As part of that process, an extensive ‘snagging’ list is being worked through as weather conditions permit. We appreciate the patience of staff and students at this time.
“When the library is fully operational it will be a first class facility for the Crichton campus.”
The spokesperson for Dumfries and Galloway College confirmed that since the event, an inspection had taken place and the appropriate safety measures had been taken.
She said: “There was a full investigation It’s all been cleared up and meets the health and safety requirements now.”
Crichton campus was at the centre of controversy last year following reports of its £800,000-a-year losses. In response to this the University of Glasgow attempted to cease undergraduate admissions, however this decision was eventually abandoned following Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop’s pledge of a £1.5m funding package from the Scottish Government. The campus is used by the University of Glasgow, the University of the West of Scotland, and Dumfries & Galloway College.