Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Liability Claim

Children Will Fall At Playgrounds. What Shall We Do To Protect Them? A Multipart Blog Series – Part II: A Brief Summary of Playground Safety Standards

Co-Authored with Aron Olson, PE   

Welcome to the second part in our multipart blog series examining a young boy’s fall and injury at a public playground. If you missed the first part in this series, click to read it. In this post, we will highlight some resources that designers of public playgrounds can use to help ensure their designs are reasonably safe. Read More


Children Will Fall At Playgrounds. What Shall We Do To Protect Them? A Multipart Blog Series – Part I

Co-Authored with Aron Olson, PE   

In 2011, a 5-year old boy was severely injured at a public playground when he fell through a second floor opening around a fireman’s pole in a playhouse. He fell more than seven feet and struck a bare concrete floor. We are thankful that he eventually recovered from his injuries. The person who designed and built the playground was accused of negligence. A lawsuit ensued, and eventually settled in favor of the boy. Read More

Figure 1:  A view of the blower machinery.

Improper Design Leads to Fatigue Failure In Blower Shaft


A blower used to exhaust air from an industrial process stopped functioning when the blower wheel drive shaft fractured.  The process, and thereby most of the plant, had to operate at a reduced volume until the blower wheel could be replaced.  The blower wheel had been installed during a shutdown a week before the incident.  The blower wheel was a spare installed when the existing blower wheel was sent for scheduled remanufacturing. Read More

A clevis pin with the spring clip attached.

Defective Clevis Pin Culprit in Runaway Trailer


A large agricultural trailer had been connected to a truck using a clevis pin with a spring locking clip.  The trailer became disconnected from the truck and collided with an oncoming vehicle.  The trailer was in poor condition, did not have safety chains, and had substantial recent modifications by the owner. Read More

Figure 2.  A view looking into the mixer. The grate and ribbon are visible. The grate openings are large enough to admit a worker's leg.

Case Study of an Injury Involving a Soil Mixer

Co-Authored with Aron Olson, P.E.

In May, 2014, a plant farm worker was seriously injured when he fell into the hopper of an electrically powered soil mixer.  The mixer in question used a rotating steel ribbon powered by a 7-1/2 hp electric motor to mix batches of materials such as sand, mulch, wood shavings, fertilizers and other landscaping materials to create potting soil. At the top of the hopper sidewalls, within 6 inches of the ribbon, was a steel grate. Read More

Figure 2: A self-propelled roof bolter similar to the one described in this post. The canopy is on the extreme left of the image.

A Case Study in a Coal Mine: What are a Machine Rebuilder’s Responsibilities?

Co-Authored with Aron Olson, P.E.

In November of 2010, a miner was injured by a roof bolting machine (roof bolter) in an Alabama underground coal mine. The roof bolter in question had undergone a complete rebuild intended to return the machine to the original equipment manufacturer’s (OEM’s) specifications. Warren was hired to analyze both the design of the roof bolter and the actions of the rebuilder to determine if either contributed to the unfortunate coal miner’s serious injury. Background information on coal mining and roof bolters, as well as an analysis of the roof bolter and the actions of the rebuilder are included. Read More


Painting of Handicap Ramps

As an experienced safety consultant, I’m called on to investigate a wide range of premises liability incidents. One common premises liability incident that often results in serious injury is a fall on a handicap ramp. There are at least four types of handicap ramps – flare side, parallel, returned curb and built-up.

Handicap ramps were originally designed and incorporated into buildings as a means of egress to accommodate individuals with disabilities, particularly those in wheel chairs. Navigating a standard 6-inch curb can be a significant barrier for someone with a mobility disability and a proper ramp eliminates that barrier. This post will focus on painting on and around handicap ramps.


The International Code Council/American National Standards Institute ICC/ANSI) A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities and ADA Standards for Accessible Design provide standards and guidelines for the proper construction and placement of handicap ramps, however, it often surprises people when they find out that no Codes or Standards have provided any specifics on painting of ramps, that is up until the 2009 ICC/ANSI A117.1 which became effective in 2011.  Even then the painting requirement only applies to one specific part of a curb ramp.

The 2009 ICC A117.1 states: 406.3.2 Marking. If curbs adjacent to the ramp flares are painted, the painted surface shall extend along the flared portion of the curb. The purpose of this new requirement is to provide a visual cue to pedestrians approaching the flared side of the curb.

Although there are limited painting requirements, it is the practice of many to paint ramp structures and I have seen ramps painted in many different ways with no real consistency.  So why do people paint ramps? The reason is to bring attention to various aspects of a ramp such as slope, and changes in elevation, which can be a pedestrian fall hazard in some constructed ramps. Proper painting of ramps is a good practice when proper paint materials are used and it effectively highlights or alerts pedestrians to a feature of the ramp. On the other hand, improper painting can create hazards.


Walking surfaces should have adequate color contrast at change in elevation points.  For example, many ramps have black asphalt abutting the white concrete of sections of the curb ramp. The color difference serves to highlight transition points and bring attention to them. Where no color contrast exists, proper painting can improve the visibility of elevations points. In the ASTM F1637 Standard for Safe Walking Surfaces, warnings and color contrast are stated to be helpful preventative measures. Painting of the top side of the entire flare or flare is discouraged by many safety professionals. One potential problem with painting the entire top side of the ramp slopes is that the paint can make the inclined surface less slip resistant. The type of paint used is a factor in slip resistance. Many paint types can make walking surfaces extremely slippery when wet. If painting is done on or around a ramp the paint used should be checked to see if it is of a formulation approved for use on exterior walking surfaces.

ASTM F1637 Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces states: 5.1.3 Painted walkways shall contain an abrasive additive, crosscut grooving, texturizing or other appropriate means to render the surface slip resistant where wet conditions maybe reasonably forseeable.

On some ramps painting may camouflages areas where a change in elevation exists such as the start of a sloped section or where a curb and the walking surface meet. I often see curbs and curbs on ramps painted not only on the side face and top face but also on the walking surface just in front of the curb. In some cases, when walking on the top side this can hide the curb edge from sight and increase the fall potential.


Painting of handicap ramps is a serious consideration that should be carefully planned and performed to insure the safety of all pedestrians who interact with the walkway surface.

J. Steven Hunt, CPCU, ARM, is president and senior safety consultant at Warren. Steve specializes in premises liability incidents, construction falls and safety management programs, has achieved the designation of Associate Risk Management and Chartered Property and Liability Underwriter from Insurance Institute of America, Chicago, IL. Steve has investigated more than 1,000 accidents in his more than 39-year career, including 33 cases involving fatalities. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Administrative Management with a Minor in Occupational Safety and Health from Clemson University.

Figure 1: An illustration of a properly constructed flared side curb ramp.

A Steep Price: Improperly sloped curb ramps increase the potential of serious pedestrian injury

As an experienced safety consultant, I’m called to investigate a wide range of premises liability incidents. One common premises incident that often results in serious injury is a fall on a curb ramp. There are at least four types of curb ramps: flare side, parallel, returned curb and built-up. This post will focus primarily on flare side curb ramps which are the most common type constructed today. Read More

A joint lab examination  was conducted with an exemplar heater.

Analysis of Double Fatality Fire Allegedly Caused by a Portable Electric Heater


When fires occur, the effect on people’s lives is often devastating. This is especially true with fires that cause the death of a child. Clearly it is important to try and find the causes of such fires so that they can be prevented in the future. In such circumstances, it is especially important to follow a rigorous methodology in investigating the origin and cause of a fire. Investigators following a less than rigorous methodology may reach improper conclusions. Such was the case in a devastating fire investigated by Warren that was improperly alleged to have been caused by a supposedly defective product, a small electric space heater.
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Figure 2. A detail of the CAD model showing the area in which the firefighter was injured.

Firefighter burned due to improper industrial oven design and operation


Industrial ovens and furnaces are used in many manufacturing processes.  One use of industrial ovens is for drying and curing coatings on fabrics.

I investigated a fire loss involving a very large oven, 10 stories high, used for curing coatings on an industrial fabric. A young firefighter was burned in response to this fire, one of a string of many fires that had occurred involving the oven.

Read More

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