Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Category Archive: Safety and Design

Heating System Losses, Part One

When fall and winter arrive and temperatures drop, it is a great comfort to have a heating system to warm your home or office. Several categories of heating equipment exist to provide both primary and secondary heating. Primary heating systems include fuel gas/fuel oil/electric forced air furnaces, heat pumps, hydronic heating/steam systems and even wood-fired heating systems.  Secondary heating equipment includes electric, gas and kerosene space heaters of both fixed and portable design, and fireplaces. Each of the different types of heating systems have unique hazards that, uncontrolled, can result in fires, explosions, burn injuries, and carbon monoxide poisoning.  Read More

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Staying Connected on the Loop: Two by Two’s Mobile Internet Setup

After completing the sit-stand workstation in the guest stateroom of our 47’ Nova Scotia pilothouse trawler, Two by Two, that I reported in a previous blog, I found I needed an internet connection with reasonable speed and reliability.  While almost every marina will give you a password for their WiFi, the quality of most marina connections is unreliable and too slow to effectively work as a forensic engineering consultant. When I tried to download a simple photograph through any type of remote connection to the Irmo, SC office, I could go make a cup of coffee and come back before the download finished.  To upload a group of photographs Read More

The Role of Interlocking Guards in Injury Prevention

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In the three-part series on the CE mark, we scratched the surface of some of the requirements an equipment manufacturer must meet in order to earn this designation. Part three of the series dealt with some of the requirements for the design of a guard.  One of the items for consideration with the design of a guard is the frequency that someone will need to access the area protected by the guard.  If access is needed on a routine basis, often defined as more than once per shift, the guard needs to be designed to be movable instead of fixed.  Movable is defined as able to be opened without the use of tools.  Otherwise the frustration and time requirements of obtaining tools and removing a fixed guard will often lead to the guard being discarded. Read More

Don’t Get Burned With Your Gas Grill!

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If there is one thing Americans can agree upon, it is the enjoyment that comes from an outdoor barbeque.  Whether a summertime cookout or a fall BBQ to watch a football game, we all love the fun and fellowship that comes from sharing a meal that was prepared outdoors on a grill or smoker.  In fact, 64% of Americans own a grill or smoker.  The great majority of these are LP fueled gas grills with comparatively few natural gas fired grills.  These products can be enjoyed safely when designed, installed, and used in a proper manner.  However, given the grill’s use of flammable fuel gas and high temperatures, the potential exists for things to go wrong and result in burn injuries or uncontained fires that spread to the surroundings. Read More

What You May Not Know About Using a Concrete Test Hammer

When assessing potential problems in concrete structures, consider a non-destructive test using the concrete test hammer, AKA “rebound hammer,” before investing a lot of time and money needlessly replacing or destructively testing the concrete structure.  The use of rebound hammer tests should be considered before you or your client decide to drill multiple core samples. Large areas of the concrete structure suspected of having potential strength problems can be tested quickly with a rebound hammer.  Analysis of those results can narrow down specific areas for more rigorous testing. Read More

The Demise of Insulation on Electrical Wiring

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Unlike fine wines and some types of cheeses, not everything ages well.  Such is the case with the materials used as insulation of electrical wiring.  While the copper metal used as the conductor in many wire types will last virtually forever, the cladding used to protect and insulate the wire allowing electrons to flow to their final destination does not. Read More

What’s Behind That CE Mark Part Three, Machine Guard Requirements

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In the first blog in this series, we discussed the story behind the CE mark, the Machinery Directive, and the associated requirements regarding the design, production, and sale of machinery bearing the mark. The second blog discussed a cornerstone of safer machine design, the risk assessment. This installment will discuss another crucial piece of the safety puzzle, machine guard design. Read More

Load Holding Valves in Hydraulic Cranes

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Hydraulic cranes absolutely rely on the integrity of their high-pressure fluid systems for safe operation.  A crane can become out of level when an outrigger cylinder leaks over time, possibly leading to a tip over.  A boom can collapse if a hydraulic hose ruptures.  It is not possible to absolutely prevent hydraulic cylinders from developing leaks or prevent hoses from rupturing during the life of a typical crane, therefore crane manufacturers provide load holding valves at key components to prevent these dangerous incidents.  In fact, ASME B30.5, Mobile and Locomotive Cranes, requires load holding valves or equivalent devices at outrigger cylinders, boom support cylinders, and boom telescoping cylinders. Read More

Working on the Waves While Working the Waves…

The rumors of my pending retirement have been greatly exaggerated…..

Ever since I heard about The Great Loop I have wanted to cruise it (www.greatloop.org).  To successfully complete the Loop, one needs to have 3 things: adequate equipment, adequate time, and adequate health. I had the first and third.  To secure the second, I had floated the idea of a two-year sabbatical.  A year to complete any existing cases and a year to execute The Great Loop.

With the arrival of COVID-19, our firm went to remote work. Read More

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

Now that you know what ammonia is (see Part One here), how it behaves, and how to safely store it and work with it, let’s look at some areas in industry where it is used.

Anhydrous ammonia has a use in pollution control.  Industrial boilers and power plants burn coal or natural gas to make steam and/or electricity. When the fuel is burned using air as the oxygen source nitrogen gets exposed to the heat as well because air is 79% nitrogen.  The nitrogen gets oxidized and forms several compounds referred to as NOx (NO, NO2, NO3).  NOx compounds are harmful to Read More

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