Guide to Engineering Disasters - Causes, Effects, and Lessons Learned

Page content

Engineering disasters occur because of flaws in design, human error, and certain uncontrollable situations. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred because of deficiencies in the design and not sticking to guidelines. On the other hand, the World Trade Center’s internal structure failure was not because of debris load, but the collapse was caused by fire alone. While constructing a building, tunnel, or a bridge, engineers always plan and design considering few important aspects that could affect the engineering structure in the real-time. For instance, a bridge would be designed considering traffic density for the next ten or fifteen years, earthquake loads, and hydrostatic pressure. Now it is not possible for a human mind to plan and design for unseen situations that might arrive in the future. No one would have expected the World Trade Center to collapse because of excessive heating despite the presence of fireproof systems well in place. Through this guide to engineering disasters, we will discuss some of the not so popular engineering disasters of the recent times and look also at recorded human responses when things suddenly go badly wrong.

Failed Bridges Across the World

Bridge failures affect our connectivity, and if the bridge fails at a remote location, places might be isolated from the main land or other regions for a long period of time. For instance, the Tay Bridge in Scotland was destroyed when a violent storm hit the bridge. Its destruction was due to design failure as well as problems with construction. We have listed a few articles here that cast light on the cause and effect of failed bridges.

Failures on the High Sea

Mariners have a tough life and if an engineering breakdown occurs on a voyage, it could be real pain if you do not know how to handle it. Even the mighty, supposedly unsinkable Titanic failed because an iceberg hit it and tore it into two pieces. Mariners need to take extra care with repair tools and backups because being stranded in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean is not a good idea at all. Bad luck is something that can hit anyone, and the only way out is a positive approach and enough repair backup. Loss of oil rigs and accidents at the drilling sites are other problems which mariners encounter frequently. Through the articles listed in this section, we learn about famous marine engineering failures and the real-life experiences of two of our writers at Bright Hub as well.

Nuclear Disasters

Nuclear technology is all set to change the world in the coming years. However, there is a huge disadvantage associated with the nuclear energy and that is nuclear radiation. Unlike other engineering failures, the nuclear disasters have the potential to affect more than one generation. The Chernobyl Disaster in Ukraine, the Tokiamura Disaster in Japan, and the Chalk River disaster in Canada are some of the accidents that saw the devastating effects of a nuclear accident. In this section, we have listed a few articles highlighting the nuclear disasters of recent times.

In this section we have compiled a list of five most devastating engineering disasters of recent times that shook the world. The impact these engineering disasters had on our society was huge. However, engineering has always been about failure and learning from it and that’s what the engineering fraternity did and still doing to make our lives better.

Here we have compiled few articles highlighting common modes of failures of buildings, machines, and other engineering structures. These articles will enable you to learn about and analyze common causes of failures. Learning from others’ mistakes is the best way to learn and reduce the probability of failure, and through these articles we get to know about most common mistakes and causes. Here we have exclusive articles that throw light on how frequency leads to failures with regard to power plants, why structures fail, what are the most common modes of construction failures, and much more.

Whenever we talk about engineering disasters, we cannot ignore natural disasters. Of late Tsunamis have affected the world greatly and Japan became its latest victim in 2011. Tsunamis affect our daily life greatly and affect our engineering structures badly.

Lessons Learned from Engineering Failures

We always learn from our mistakes, and the engineering fraternity has always incorporated lessons learned from engineering disasters to at least avoid the same kind of failure again. For new types of failures, we can always stay positive that more lessons are learned at the cost of less damage.

Are there any other topics concerning engineering disasters that you would like to see covered at Bright Hub? If so, please include your suggestions in the comments section below. Please note that comments are moderated and take some time to appear.


  • Linked articles and the author’s personal research