The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Scotland recently announced its emerging engineer 2023. The winning paper examined ways of preventing bridge suicides.

University of Glasgow student Katie O’Neill told construction magazine Project Scotland, ‘Engineers have a social responsibility to protect public safety, health, and welfare. This is critical for the design of bridges, several of which have historically been used as sites for suicide by distressed individuals.

‘Prevention of suicidal behaviour remains a complex and imperfect art – one of the few strategies that has been proven as effective is reducing the availability of means. So by designing tall bridges that cannot be jumped from, engineers can reduce suicides.’

She explained that while an increase in the height of barriers reduces climability, authorised climbing trials show that fit young males can climb a 2.4m barrier. Increasing the height of barriers increases the load on the deck and makes the bridge more vulnerable aerodynamically. But other features, such as an inward curve and reduced hand- and foot-holds, can also impede climbing.

ICE Scotland commented, ‘Judges thought her paper on different approaches to bridge suicide prevention barriers highlighted a real public safety issue and demonstrated through ingenious new and retrofit engineering solutions, the number of people taking their lives on bridges could be reduced.’

A free online presentation about the paper is planned. Book your place through ICE.