ITA COSUF – scope, activities & structure

Posted: 26 November 2007 | | No comments yet

COSUF – the ITA-Committee on Operational Safety of Underground Facilities, was set-up in May 2005 at the ITA World Tunnel Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. This important step followed a joint initiative of eight European research projects which all aimed at improved tunnel safety after the disastrous fire accidents in various road tunnels in 1999 and the following years.

COSUF – the ITA-Committee on Operational Safety of Underground Facilities, was set-up in May 2005 at the ITA World Tunnel Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. This important step followed a joint initiative of eight European research projects which all aimed at improved tunnel safety after the disastrous fire accidents in various road tunnels in 1999 and the following years.

COSUF – the ITA-Committee on Operational Safety of Underground Facilities, was set-up in May 2005 at the ITA World Tunnel Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. This important step followed a joint initiative of eight European research projects which all aimed at improved tunnel safety after the disastrous fire accidents in various road tunnels in 1999 and the following years.

The scope of COSUF initially mainly covered safety in tunnels and other underground facilities but has since expanded and now also covers security aspects. However, it is limited to safety/security of operations during construction of underground facilities – this is the subject covered by the ITA Working Group No. 5: ‘Health and Safety’.

Within this scope, the following objectives are the basis for the activities of COSUF:

  • Maintain and develop a network to:
    • Exchange knowledge
    • Encourage collaboration
    • Facilitate the creation of dedicated teams and groups to perform specific (research) activities
    • Facilitate cooperation worldwide
    • Enhance research and development activities through combining of national, regional and international funding and promoting support
  • Promote safety (and security) by:
    • Fostering innovation
    • Raising awareness of current and newly developed safety (and security) issues amongst decision makers, professional end-users, financers, risk managers, international forums and other stakeholders
    • Supporting the development of improved regulations


Considering the aforementioned objectives, COSUF has developed a range of activities. The following list lays out the actual activities which might be modified whenever this seems necessary in pursuing the objectives of COSUF in the best way possible. The activities include:

  • Networking and coordination meetings, at least once a year, linked with other events
  • Organising and co-organising workshops and conferences
  • Actions towards focusing international research programmes to include tunnel and underground safety (and security), e.g. in the EU framework programmes, European Technology Platforms or other international activities
  • To take part in international standardisation
  • To form groups and ad-hoc task forces inside the Committee to address issues related to the scope of the Committee and its objectives
  • Developing and maintaining a website within the ITA-AITES website, which will promote its activities and disseminate its findings

Basic structure

COSUF is headed by a Steering Board (SB) which consisted originally of representatives from the eight research projects but now has been enlarged to representatives of the major stakeholders within COSUF. The SB is chaired by a chairman as representative of ITA – the International Tunneling Association and a vice chairman as representative of PIARC – the World Road Association. Both are responsible to the annual General Assembly of ITA. The SB is supported in its activities by a secretariat and works in close cooperation with the Tutor, appointed by the Executive Board of the ITA.

COSUF has formed three Activity Groups (AGs) to conduct the manifold activities. These AGs, open for all COSUF members for active participation, generally aim at collection of information, creation of syntheses and recommendations, dissemination of information, identification of current and future needs for research and development giving direction as well as specific initiatives, and other related activities.

The AGs themselves do not carry out studies, research or similar activities of commercial value which could be done by institutes or companies. Instead of that, they aim to be centres of excellence for exchange of information and know-how with regard to safety and security of tunnels and other underground facilities.

The Activity Groups enjoy a high degree of freedom in the definition of their activities according to the intentions, capabilities and contributions of its members. However, they are controlled and they receive advice in a strategically and political sense by the Steering Board. The general objectives of the AGs are:

  • Sufficient safety and security for tunnel users, employees and rescue personnel
  • Cost efficient solutions for safety and security
  • A strive for optimality taking into consideration life-cycle costs and socio-economy and societal demands
  • Improvements of tunnel safety and security by fostering innovation and with a vision of future possibilities and needs

The three AGs closely interact to avoid duplication in their work.

Activity groups and their work programme

Activity Group 1: Interaction with European and international initiatives

AG 1 will take and keep contact with other external institutions, groups and projects in order to receive relevant information, to co-operate for avoiding duplication of activities, to give information about activities in COSUF to external groups and possibly influence the initiatives. The activities in AG 1 consist of:

  • Identifying relevant initiatives outside COSUF
  • Attracting COSUF members from the initiatives or appoint liaison responsible COSUF members
  • Liaise with initiatives outside COSUF
  • Reporting to Activity Groups 2 and 3 about the results and findings of activities outside COSUF
  • Reporting transparently to relevant external groups and initiatives about the ideas and results of COSUF
  • Ensuring that safety and security is given proper priority in initiatives concerning underground facilities
  • Influencing initiatives to include safety and security aspects in line with the ideas of COSUF
  • Bringing COSUF ideas to life as projects either as part of existing initiatives or as new separate projects

Activity Group 2: Regulations and best practice

AG 2 covers regulations, the state-of-the-art and best-practices in various countries world-wide. This includes discussion and comparison of regulations and best-practice procedures from different owners, networks, projects and the experience gained by them. By doing this, it is aimed to collect and distribute information on existing national and international regulations and recognised recommendations as well as to establish the best-practice for tunnel safety (and security). As a result it can be identified that:

  • There is a need of improvement or harmonisation considering regulations in different countries, between networks, between different projects etc.
  • The regulations are not up-to-date compared with the recent activities and achievements in practice
  • ‘State-of-the-art’ or state of practice is deviating significantly from region to region, from industry to industry or from institution to institution

The findings can result in requirements for new regulations; they can also contribute to disseminate the knowledge and to identify areas for which new research is needed.

The work in this Activity Group is part of establishing a global ‘state-of-the-art’ for tunnel safety and the regulatory tools to ensure that an adequate safety level is achieved. The activities cover all safety related aspects such as:

  • Safety objectives
  • Basic methods of technical approach (prescriptive and performance-based approaches)
  • Protection of the structure
  • Methods for risk assessment
  • Safety systems and equipment
  • Interaction with human behaviour
  • Operation and maintenance
  • Intervention

The area of security may be highlighted specifically, since there is a need for establishing the ‘state-of-the-art’ also in this field. Security deviates from safety particularly with respect to the prevention, whereas the reaction consequence side may be similar to those which are resulting from evaluation and analysis of accidents or so.

The participants in the AG 2 are mainly professionals with experience concerning safety and security in design, operation and rescue in the various areas related to underground facilities.

Activity Group 3: Research and new findings

The scope of AG 3 is to motivate to research and to use research results and other new findings for the benefit of safety and security in underground facilities in general. The activities include:

  • Collection of results of research and collection of new findings
  • Evaluation of events, results and new findings
  • Dissemination of the results and new findings among COSUF members
  • Synthesis of results and new findings into best practices (in collaboration with AG 2)
  • Collection and evaluation of ideas for research
  • Identify needs for the future and give directions for future research

The actual launch of new research projects is initiated outside the COSUF frame but certainly facilitated through the activities of COSUF and the AG. The aim is to make aware all relevant professionals of new findings and recent results of research in the safety and security related activities regarding underground facilities, to discuss these results and other ideas and to process them into specifications of needs of new research into recommended best practices. The areas covered by AG 3 include the following topics:

  • New/innovative equipment in tunnels and new materials
  • Processes, analyses and design procedures
  • Integrated design procedures
  • Risk analyses as part of the design
  • Fire design techniques etc.
  • IT tools in the tunnel design and operation
  • Test programmes using standardised techniques
  • Operation and maintenance
  • Monitoring
  • Safe intervention, evacuation, fire fighting etc.
  • Planning
  • Training
  • Simulation
  • Interface tunnel, users, operators and rescue services (human behaviour etc.)
  • Experience from tunnel incidents, accidents and near misses
  • Tunnel safety related data collection
  • Specific security related problems for underground facilities

The participants in the activities are mainly researchers with activities in the field of safety (and security) of underground facilities and engineers, scientists and other professionals with experience in safety design in various areas related to underground facilities.

Membership and sponsorship

COSUF invites all parties world-wide interested in the field of operational safety and security of tunnels and other underground facilities to become a member and to co-operate within COSUF. There are exceptionally corporative members, no individual ones. The membership in COSUF has to be confirmed by the General Assembly of ITA, but is not bound to membership in ITA or vice versa. Of course, a membership in both is possible and welcome. Interested parties can subscribe online – COSUF currently has more than 50 members. COSUF has also developed a sponsorship scheme and this creates highly focused visibility for the industry in the specific field of safety and security of underground facilities.

Closing remark

The Committee aims at networking activities; gathering, combining, and clustering of national and international research and promotion of safety and security issues in underground facilities world-wide. Through these goals, it intends to enhance and facilitate innovation, standardisation and integration to secure function and reliability of mobility for persons and goods as vital precondition for modern and prosperous societies.