Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Construction Related Losses

Ammonia – The Good, The Bad, The Smelly… Part One

Ammonia is a compound consisting of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms and is denoted by the formula NH3. Its boiling point is -28°F at atmospheric pressure, so unless it is under pressure, it is gaseous at room temperatures. Therefore, pure ammonia is typically stored under pressure in a liquid form. Household ammonia is only 5-10% NH3, the remaining 90-95% is water. Ammonia is extremely soluble in water. It is often depicted  like this: 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

When the Walls Come Tumbling Down… Retaining Wall Basics

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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

Case Study: Fatality Servicing Unsupported Excavator Boom

A mini-excavator at a job site developed a leak at a hydraulic fitting at the base of the cylinder that raises and lowers the boom. A subcontractor foreman at the site raised the boom to search for the leak. The foreman found and attempted to tighten the leaking fitting. When he did, the fitting separated from the base of the cylinder, releasing the hydraulic pressure that held the boom aloft. The boom fell and the bucket struck a nearby superintendent for the general contractor.

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Testing As Part of Gas Appliance Incident Investigation

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Equipment and appliances supplied with fuel gases like natural gas, propane and butane are a common and convenient part of most of our lives.  Such devices as gas grills and ranges, ovens, furnaces, space heaters and water heaters usually perform without incident.  However, when they malfunction the potential for incidents such as fires and explosions, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and burn injuries may occur. These incidents may be due to design and manufacturing defects in the product, or improper installation or operation of the device.

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Timber – Falling Beam Strikes Worker

As an experienced safety consultant, I have investigated many serious injuries and deaths at construction sites over the past 39 years. The United States Department of Labor reports that the fatal injury rate for the construction industry is highest of all industries in the nation. Out of 4,386 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2014, 899 or 20.5% were in construction i.e., one in five worker deaths were in construction. Read More

Why Should I be Concerned About Galvanic Corrosion?

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It is fairly common knowledge that the use of dissimilar metals in plumbing systems can quickly result in a leak due to a corroded pipe or fitting. Read More

Not Falling for Your Job?

Periodically, Warren Engineers and Consultants are asked to perform inspections that require work at raised elevations. Typical jobs and tasks include climbing on commercial and residential roofs with steep pitches, working on scaffolding, climbing from one level to the next at a fire or industrial loss scene, riding in the buckets of lift equipment, and inspecting exterior structural elements such as windows and masonry.  Read More

Who Else Owns This Construction Loss Course

When a worker is badly injured on a construction site, adjusters or investigators are often hired to determine pursuit or defense of a subrogation case.  This slideshow gives an overview of several real-world investigations and helps viewers understand some of the issues involved in construction related subrogatable incidents. Read More

Catastrophic Weather – Lessons Learned

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In recent years, with Hurricane Ike in Galveston, TX in 2008 and Superstorm Sandy along the New Jersey and New York coastline in 2012, we have had the opportunity to see firsthand the destructive power of storms like these.  We were “boots on the ground” literally days after the initial coastal strike.  The damage observed to residential and commercial structures was far reaching, diverse and some preventable.  We want to share some “lessons learned” from these observations for these two CAT events. Read More

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