Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Industrial

Financial Injury.…From a Machine?!?!

Forensic engineers may be called upon to investigate a broad array of problems concerning a machine.  Cases involving physical injuries and even death are a large part of what we investigate in order to determine what caused the accident to happen and who may be at fault.  Occasionally, problems with a recently designed custom machine do not cause a physical injury, but instead cause a “financial” injury.  This type of “injury” can negatively impact the machine designer, the machine purchaser, or possibly both.  Financial injuries can be quite substantial, just as physical injuries can be, and may severely impact a company’s cash flow which can make or break a company.  A refusal to pay a designer/builder of a machine or paying for a machine that ends up not meeting the agreed upon performance specifications can have catastrophic consequences for many businesses, especially for small ones. Read More

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The Collision Reconstruction Matrix

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It’s mid-January, the high today is 28 degrees with lows in the teens as the Carolinas are in the grip of a Canadian cold front and I’m on call tonight. The phone rings at 3:00 am; yes Sir, three cars with two fatalities, I-85 northbound, yes Sir, on the way. Despite the hurdles that lie in front of me cold, fatigue, the loss of life – my job with the South Carolina Highway Patrol Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) is to investigate, document, and ultimately prosecute chargeable collisions. To properly reconstruct this collision, three essential and distinct categories must be investigated and documented in order to provide a well-founded explanation of the series of events prior to, during, and after the collision regarding the human, the vehicle, and the environment; this investigative technique is known as the 9-cell collision reconstruction matrix. Read More

When a Fire Sprinkler System Fails to Deliver

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After a major fire, it is necessary to investigate the fire sprinkler system to see if and why it malfunctioned. Wet sprinkler systems are the most common and least complex fire sprinkler systems in use. The following are major items addressed in an investigation involving a wet system.

If available, drawings of the supply piping and sprinkler system are helpful. If these are not available, a sketch of the system will be made. Requests will also be made for inspection, testing, and maintenance documentation as well as fire alarm logs.

The top reason that fire sprinkler systems do not function correctly during a fire is Read More

WARREN Welcomes Mechanical Engineer Bob Hickman, P.E.

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Please join us in welcoming Mechanical Engineer Bob Hickman, P.E., to the WARREN family! Bob has over 30 years of manufacturing and machine design experience in production and quality-driven environments. Bob holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University.

Bob’s Areas of Expertise Include:
-Machine Safeguarding
-Machine Design
-Equipment Failure
-Mechanical Engineering
-Industrial Accident Investigation
-Codes & Standards
-Machinery & Equipment Damage Assessment
-Products Liability Read More

Warren Welcomes Fire Protection Engineer Amy Anderson, P.E.

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Please join us in welcoming Fire Protection Engineer Amy Anderson, P.E., to the WARREN family! Amy has over 20 years of property loss prevention engineering and experience, specializing in fire protection. Amy graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Chemical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Fire Protection.

Amy’s Expertise Includes: Read More

The Use of Taglines to Control Crane Loads

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The adequacy of a crane’s load line to support the weight of the object being lifted is an obvious concern when evaluating a crane lifting operation. Less obvious, but often equally important, is the presence and adequacy of taglines to provide control of the load orientation.

Taglines are simply ropes or lines that are Read More

Conveyor Backstops: Sometimes One Isn’t Enough, Part 1

This is the first of a two-part blog series describing an incident involving conveying machinery that seriously injured a miner. Part 1 describes the machinery and the incident. In Part 2 I will summarize my engineering analysis of the incident and share the conclusions I reached.

A loaded, inclined conveyor belt may contain hazardous levels of energy due to gravity. To protect workers, anti-reverse devices called backstops are installed on inclined conveyors to prevent unexpected downhill movement. The Conveyor Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (CEMA) defines a backstop as: Read More

Industrial Equipment Failures and Construction Disputes

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At Warren, we frequently investigate losses involving industrial machinery.  Many of the losses involve workplace injuries, fires, or explosions; however, we also analyze industrial machinery and processes for other types of problems.  For example, we analyze failures of machinery or industrial processes to perform as expected or disputes that arise from the commercial supply and construction of such systems.  This can encompass a range of issues from failure to achieve required levels of product quality or production quantity, to matters concerning unclear specifications or contracts, Read More

Heavy Machinery Fires Caused by Hydraulic Hose Failures

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Heavy machinery fires are often caused by hydraulic hose failures.  Pressurized hydraulic fluid escaping from a failed hose assembly can be atomized into a fine spray that can be ignited by heated engine surfaces such as the engine exhaust or turbocharger.

Hydraulic hoses near the engine compartment of an excavator that burned.

 

Hydraulic hoses often fail due to age and wear, requiring regular inspection and replacement of hydraulic hoses to prevent failures. Hoses may also fail if they are misrouted.  Misrouting can lead to the hose being pinched or causing it to chafe against a sharp metal surface. Read More

Interpreting Industrial Incident Data – Lesson Learned

This is a case study about an incident I investigated involving a major upset in a distillation column.  This blog builds on the previous blogs about the Distributed Control System, DCS – Data is the Key.

Distillation is a method of separating mixtures of compounds with differing boiling points.  Uncle Bill with his still on the hill separates ethanol, that boils at 173°F, from water that boils at 212°F.  If the mixture is heated to above 173°F, but below 212°F, the ethanol will boil, the vapor will travel up out of the unit and then can be condensed and served over ice with an olive…   Any mixture of two or more chemicals with different boiling points can be separated in this way.  The distillation Read More

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