Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Category Archive: Safety and Design

Improper Hearth Extension Leads to Structure Fire

The fire service affords you the opportunity to witness and observe things that a lot of engineers and even most people do not get the chance to see.  An example of this is the situation where extended elevated temperatures combined with poor construction techniques to result in a structure fire.

I have personally observed several occasions where a structure fire was initiated due to improper construction of the fireplace hearth extension.  The most recent one followed a multi-day cold snap, at least by South Carolina standards.  The thermometer read 17 degrees F as I drove to the call of smoke in a residence Read More

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Proper Construction and Maintenance Can Prevent Deadly Chimney Fires

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There are few things as comforting to me during the winter months as a warm fire burning in the fireplace.  And in this case, I am talking the real deal, the kind that warms you multiple times; from cutting, splitting and stacking the firewood until finally lighting a fire in the fireplace.  However, just like your parents taught you, fire can be dangerous.  And having an actual fire in your home fireplace comes with some required maintenance to ensure you can safely control the fire and keep it where it belongs. Read More

Residential Structure Fires

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The winter season is well underway in the United States, with the Christmas and New Years holidays behind us and the depths of cold weather here for the duration.  With winter, many people spend more hours indoors as compared to the summer when outdoor activities ramp up.  With more time spent indoors, it is somewhat intuitive that the use of electricity would increase as well.

Electricity is one of the most influential utilities in our daily life.  Much of what modern societies rely on to get through a normal day requires electricity.  Have you ever been in a slight panic looking for an electric outlet when your cell phone is below 10% charge?  Or how many times do we all attempt to turn on a light switch when we enter a room during a known power outage from sheer habit?  Even our personal transportation which has relied on gasoline for roughly 100 years is shifting toward electric automobiles. Read More

Heating System Losses, Part One

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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

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

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