University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Engineering Department Structures Research Seminars > Hillsborough: a long festering scar on the conscience of the nation Technical and societal aspects of the disaster

Hillsborough: a long festering scar on the conscience of the nation Technical and societal aspects of the disaster

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This lecture will begin by briefly describing the events which led to the disaster at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield on 15 April 1989 in which 96 people lost their lives. It will continue by describing some of the work carried out by the Health and Safety Executive in investigating these events. The author was seconded the HSE team by the University of Sheffield where he was then the Head of Mechanical Engineering.

The individual aspects investigated include the examination and testing of crush barriers, collapse load calculations, development of a model to predict crowd pressures and estimation of the number of spectators entering the critical areas of the ground and the operation of the entry turnstiles.

The years since the disaster have seen many inquiries of various kinds, all focussed on the performance of various authorities, particularly South Yorkshire Police, in the aftermath of the disaster. The presentation will conclude by redressing the balance by discussing the role played in the disaster by the performance and technical failings of the various safety experts and officials who were responsible for erroneously granting the ground a safety certificate in the years leading up to the disaster.

Professor Roderick Smith, ScD, FREng., is currently Emeritus Professor at Imperial College London and Chair of the Future Railway Research Centre. He is an Infrastructure Commissioner for Wales and was previously Chief Scientific Advisor for the Department for Transport. He is a visiting Professor at the University of Oxford and an Academician of CRRC China and a Past President of the institution of Mechanical Engineers. He was previously a lecturer in the Cambridge University Engineering Department (1980-88) and Professor of Mechanical and Process Engineering, University of Sheffield (1988-2000), including a period as Head of Department (1992-95). He was Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College (2000-2005) Professor Smith has undertaken consultancy work for Tech Director, British Steel plc (1987-90), was involved in crowd safety research assisting the Health and Safety Executive with investigations into the Hillsborough disaster, and has worked for the Board of British Rail (1992-96) and as an expert witness in many legal cases. He recently acted as an external assessor of the Shift2Rail programme for the EU. He has also worked in Japan with Universities, Japanese railway organizations and manufacturers. He has published widely and is frequently invited to address international meetings and conferences for many years he has championed the building of a high speed rail system in the UK.

This talk is part of the Engineering Department Structures Research Seminars series.

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