Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Subrogation

Reducing Property Damage and Injuries Via Near Miss Reporting

What is a near miss?  It’s an unplanned event that does not result in injury or property damage, but had the potential to do so.  We often call these events “close calls” or “narrow escapes.”  For example, a scaffold guardrail is missing, a worker backs up and as he starts losing his balance, he is able to grab hold of the scaffold buck and prevent the fall.  Other than a racing heartbeat for a few minutes, presumably, no harm, no foul. Read More

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Figure 1: A typical warning found on a confined space.

Permit-Required Confined Spaces – What You Need to Know to Safely Enter (and Exit!)

According to the OSHA regulations, a confined space is anyplace that meets the following criteria:

(1)   Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work; and
(2)  Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; and
(3)  Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. Read More

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Commercial Gas-Fired Cookers Can Do More Than Burn

The first hazard that comes to mind when thinking about large scale ovens and steam kettles is burning or scalding injury. Carbon monoxide poisoning is just as dangerous but less understood, so oftentimes proper prevention methods are not followed. In the United States, this results in over 20,000 emergency room visits and over 400 deaths a year. Before we get to the case study and poisoning prevention methods, we need to know what CO is, where it comes from, and why it is poisonous. Read More

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Ready, Set, Fly! – Understanding Another Technology for Forensic Investigations

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This is the first blog in a series on integrating new technologies into the process of forensic investigations.  Documenting the scene of an incident accurately, efficiently, and safely is a key step in every investigation.  Busy roadways and unstable structures present hazards to the investigator during the investigation process. The use of remote sensors can reduce these risks and provide data that otherwise could not safely be obtained. Read More

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Chemical Engineers: More than Glorified Plumbers – Really!

As a senior at Virginia Tech, I was told that ChemE’s were little more than glorified plumbers.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure it was to keep our geek-egos in check. It was an effective tool! However, as I grew and traveled as a professional, it became an effective descriptor; applying to a larger scale and using a modifier or two for specific applications.  So, if you have a loss that falls into one of the categories below, a ChemE could be the expert you need. Read More

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Graphitic Corrosion – Difficult to determine before a failure!

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Graphitic corrosion is a process that may happen in equipment made of iron, particularly grey cast iron, but also ductile cast iron. Graphitic corrosion can lead to unexpected catastrophic failure of the affected part because the cast iron can lose its strength without a visible warning such as a change in size, shape, or appearance. Read More

Ground rod installed in the earth with clamp.

Grounding versus Bonding – Understanding the Difference in Building Electrical Systems

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While a teenager might be very familiar with being “grounded”, there is confusion over the meaning of the word in the electrical sense. In building electrical systems, “grounding” and “bonding” are two terms that are often misunderstood. Improper application of the concepts of grounding and bonding may create lethal shock and fire hazards. “Earthing” is a term which comes from the European International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC). Earthing is synonymous with grounding but often thought to have a different meaning. Read More

Figure 1:  A view of the blower machinery.

Improper Design Leads to Fatigue Failure In Blower Shaft

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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

Figure 2: A close view of the opening of the heat sealer. A person’s hand will fit in the opening below the guard to the left. Two "Danger" stickers are visible.

Injury Involving Packaging Machinery

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From time to time, I and other engineers here at Warren are asked to evaluate a case involving an injury that has been caused by machinery designed to produce or fill packaging. The hazards associated with packaging machinery are often similar to other commonly-used industrial machinery, but packaging machinery has its own voluntary consensus standard for machine safety. Read More

Figure 2: A view of some of the undersize anchors used to secure the capstan winch. The anchors at the upper right failed by pulling out of the concrete slab. The one at the lower left failed by bending and pulling out.

Injury Involving a Capstan Winch

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Co-Authored with Jeff Warren, PE   

A capstan winch uses a mechanically powered rotating cylinder, called a capstan, to apply pulling force through a rope. When the rope is looped around the rotating capstan and tightened, friction between the rope and capstan allows the winch to apply force to pull a load. A typical capstan winch is shown in Figure 1 below. Read More

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