Hyatt Regency Kansa City Hotel Disaster – Case of Risk and Safety Management Procedures Ignorance

In engineering design, risks are likely to occur through accidents or losses from accidents or unexpected incidences. Risk management integrations are, therefore, essential in developing complex systems to help predict, assess, and evaluate the design process and ensure that the project will have the most negligible probability of risk occurrence. Safety in engineering design requires a risk management strategy that starts with identifying all possible hazards that are likely to occur then checks the state of the corresponding system to identify any aspect that could cause an accident in the design system. Hence, designing for safety consists of measures of risk reduction and risk mitigation strategies to reduce the likelihood of hazardous occurrences and reduction of severity of possible incidents. Ignorance of risk management strategies in engineering design results in fatal accidents if an accident or incidence occurs. In engineering design, the Swiss Cheese Theory and the principle of reversibility help evaluate the probability of risk occurrence while the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, Fault Tree Analysis, the safety factor, redundancy, and fail-safe concepts help mitigate risks in engineering projects.

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In the 1981 Hyatt Regency Kansa City Hotel Disaster, risk and safety management procedures were ignored and resulted in a fatal accident and mass destruction of materials. The structural failure occurrence was unexpected since the building was newly constructed with a modern and impressive design with an attractive atrium made of three pedestrian walkways. However, the unexpected accident occurred when approximately 1600 people met for a dance competition. The fourth floor was stressed by the people’s weight and collapsed on the second floor, which then collapsed onto the lobby floor, killing about 114 people and injured 216 attendants (Bernhardt R. 2018). Moreover, the sprinkler systems, which supplied water from tanks instead of city supplies, poured water into the atrium since they could not be turned off. This incident increased the fatality of the accident since the trapped victims were at risk of being drowned. Hence, Kansas’s City fire chief ordered a bulldozer to break the hotel front door and provide a way for the water since the doors were acting as dams for the rapidly flooding atrium. Although a degree of failure is expected in new innovative designs involving new technology, the Hyatt Regency City Hotel Disaster’s structural failure occurrence was avoidable. Root Cause Analysis reports indicated that the accident was caused by negligence, characterized by unplanned changes in design, miscommunication, and miscalculation in most cases in the design process.

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The Swiss Cheese Theory and the principle of irreversibility appears in the 1981 Hyatt Regency Kansa City Hotel Disaster demonstrated in several ways. The Swiss Cheese Theory suggests that despite many defence layers lying between hazards and accidents, flaws exists in each layer that contributes to accidents if aligned (Asfahl, 2004). Therefore, this theory was evident in that the walkway collapse’s primary cause was poor structural engineering design. In this case, the aftermath investigation revealed several holes in the engineering process, which led to unsuitable skywalks. The engineering company should have developed a process to identify engineering errors and oversee the structure’s general safety. The principle of irreversibility was also evident in the accident. The law of irreversibility states that at a particular point of stress, a risk must not be avoidable (Asfahl, 2004). This principle was evident in the 1981 Hyatt Regency Kansa City Hotel Disaster. The people’s weight in the atrium overcame the supporting power of the welded supporting rods, thus causing the fatal accident.  Hence, the accident sealing the holes in the engineering design process would have mitigated the accident and losses from the structural design changes.

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The contractors would also use the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis and the Fault Tree Analysis for safety analysis to anticipate and prevent the 1981 Hyatt Regency Kansa City Hotel accident. The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis model is a technique that examines the possible causes of failure in an engineering design and identifies the effects of the failure of each component which could affect the performance of the entire system (Sharma & Srivastava, 2018). In this case, FMEA would determine the consequences of changing the atrium’s original design from making the second and fourth floor depend on one hunger rod instead of constructing one hunger rod for each. Besides, it could have identified the consequences of supplying water from an unstoppable source instead of connecting to city waters where they could be regulated in an accident. The Fault Tree Analysis is a top-down technique that helps identify and analyze the causes of a suspected risk with a high likelihood of occurrence (Sharma & Srivastava, 2018). Hence, the FT model would help identify the cause of the collapse of the atrium walkways after changing the original design by analyzing the quality of the construction material that could accommodate the weights of the second and fourth walkways combined. Hence the FMEA would help prevent the accident’s occurrence while the Fault Tree Analysis model would help identify the suspected caused cause of the collapse of the newly designed system.

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Engineering and design concepts of safety factor, redundancy, and fail-safe would help also avoid and mitigate the 1981 Hyatt Regency Kansa City Hotel accident risks. The safety factors define the load-carrying capability of an engineering system hence assuring that the design project is strong enough to hold unexpected high loads or defects in the material or design used (Qian & Lin, 2016). Hence, considering the safety factor would ensure quality and consistent materials and quality engineering design knowledge in the atrium construction. Besides, redundancy components can be constructed as alternatives in case of system failure. In this case, the materials used in the construction of atrium walkways supporting rods were unreliable. Hence, the design would add redundant components to serve as support in case of failure. Besides, the philosophy of fail-safe designs would help mitigate losses in the hotel in case of a system failure. The design assumes that system failure eventually occurs, but when it occurs, the system falls safely. Hence the safe life design would ensure that back-up systems to support the walkways were made.

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From the research, safety and risk management could help avoid and mitigate risks in the 1981 Hyatt Regency Kansa City Hotel accident. First, the company owners should have confirmed the qualification papers for all people involved in the construction to avoid the establishment of a risky design. Secondly, the contractors should have carried an FTME analysis to identify any factor that could cause structural design failure. Thirdly, a safety- fail analysis should have been carried out to identify the supporting rod’s load-carrying capabilities, hence giving a platform to establish a redundancy strategy to support the atrium if the initial supporting rods failed. Thus, the accident was avoidable, and in case it occurred, the fatalities would be less and minimal properties destroyed.

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In conclusion, safety and risk management strategies are vital before the initiation of an engineering design. Although system failure is likely to occur in engineering design, several processes can help avoid and mitigate the risk occurrence. The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis can identify elements that could cause failure in an engineering project, while the Fault Tree Analysis model can help identify possible effects of failure in a particular system. The engineering concepts like the safety factor would help identify an ideal material with consistency in a design project. In contrast, the safe-fail analysis can help identify the amount of load a particular material used in construction can accommodate. Finally, unavoidable risks are solvable through a redundancy strategy which acts as a support system on behalf of the system in case of failure.

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