Forensic Engineers and Consultants

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Hidden Heat: The Unseen Hazard of a High Resistance Connection

A typical residence can have upwards of 10,000 feet of electrical conductors installed, most of which are buried in the walls, attics and crawlspaces.  A commercial building can have 100,000 to upwards of 1 million feet of electrical conductors.  At each device such as a switch or a receptacle are at least three, and typically six or more connections of these conductors within a junction box.  The connections can be in the form of twisted connectors, screw terminals, push in terminals and crimped connectors.

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Failure to Maintain Tow Hook Latch Results in Bystander Death

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An unfortunate and tragic case that we investigated involved a commercial “rollback” recovery truck that was being used to transport a four-wheel drive diesel pickup.  The diesel pickup was not in running order with its’ engine in the bed of the truck.  Consequently, a commercial towing company was hired by the truck owner to transport the truck.  In the process of loading the truck onto the rollback, the truck came uncoupled from the winch and cable system.  The truck then rolled down the inclined bed of the rollback, running over and killing a bystander. Read More

Distributed Control Systems…Data is the Key

Wouldn’t it be great to have a built-in camera to let you see exactly what went wrong before an incident?  In many manufacturing instances there is, chemical plants especially.  The computer system that operates the plant is called a Distributed Control System (DCS) and it has the capacity to monitor thousands of process variables (flow rates, temperatures, pressures, levels, valve positions, pumps on/off) simultaneously.

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Waste Gas Treatment Equipment Failure: Design & Installation Defects Cause Fire

The thirty-thousand-foot view of manufacturing is raw material in, alter in an appropriate fashion, finished product out, by-product out.  Since the finished product keeps a business in business, it gets the most attention.  What about by-products or waste streams?  Read More

Why the Structural Load Path MUST be Considered During Renovation to Prevent Property Damage

Understanding the structural load path is imperative when considering renovations in a home that may require the removal of a load-bearing wall. Some homeowners consider adding a new door or window opening and worry if the structure will collapse. Another reason could be that the owner wants an open concept floor plan. The goal is to remove walls and open their living space. Read More

Water in the Light Fixtures??? How HVAC Defects Appear in Strange Places

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One of my more interesting calls and subsequent forensic investigations was regarding water accumulating inside of 2X4 fluorescent light fixtures in a suspended ceiling of a secondary school in South Carolina.

The client called and indicated that the metal chassis of the lights were sweating and generating enough water to accumulate on the diffuser lens of the lights.  Obviously, an on-site investigation was in order! Read More

Hail Isn’t Cool

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Hail property damage is frequently reported after an HVAC service call.  Building owners are often unaware there is damage until the power bill starts trending higher and the HVAC system is simply not cooling effectively. Take look at the fins! The National Weather Service reported over $722 million in property damage from hail in 2018.  Based on NWS data, hail caused more property damage than tornadoes or thunderstorms.  Only Tropical Storms/Hurricanes at $12 billion, coastal storms at $1 billion and flooding at $1 billion were more costly than hail to property.

One of the items very susceptible to damage is the HVAC system.  The heat that is removed from the interior of a building must be rejected to the environment.   As such the HVAC system is placed where it can have unhindered access to outdoor air in order to function properly.  This often results in the unit being placed in a large open space such as a rooftop, making it susceptible to damage such as hail.  Read More

Belted or Unbelted? That is the Question!

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Did the driver or passenger do what they could do to protect themselves by wearing their seatbelt? There are ways to determine if the safety-belt was being used. Most modern vehicles have a computer-controlled safety system that makes decisions based on an algorithm. That algorithm uses information such as change in speed and the direction of force to determine what to do. That data not only tells how fast the vehicle was traveling and if the brakes were applied, but also records the driver’s or passenger’s safety-belt status. Read More

Product Design is Critical to Consumer Safety

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As the holiday season nears, thoughts turn to wonderful home-cooked meals with family.  Few things in life are more pleasurable than a traditional holiday turkey feast. Yet for an unfortunate few, holiday meal time can turn tragic if a turkey frying accident occurs.   While fried turkeys may be tasty, many fire safety experts feel that the reward is not worth the risk.  Read More

When the Walls Come Tumbling Down… Retaining Wall Basics

A wall is really boring until it fails. A retaining wall is supposed to hold back soil to either support a structure or keep a space clear. When it fails, both of those roles are compromised. A retaining wall does not have to collapse to fail. In fact, a failure is perhaps better defined as when the wall does not perform as expected. Read More

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