Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Category Archive: Safety and Design

Boiler Blowdown – It’s Not a Dance Move

When thinking about the safe operation of boilers (and don’t we all?), several systems can readily be named; flame control, fuel/air ratio; steam pressure control, levels in the vessel, etc. What about the water? It seems so passive, as long as there is enough for level control, what’s the big deal? Well, it turns out, that as the steam produced by a boiler is used in the process, the condensate from that steam is returned to the boiler as feedwater. However, since 100% of the condensate is not returned, whatever solids had been in that water before it evaporated to form steam are left in the remaining water.  Fresh feedwater is added to maintain levels, but even fresh water contains some dissolved solids. So over time, the water in the boiler system gets saturated with all sorts of dissolved minerals.
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Figure 1: A view of a playground with impact absorbing surfacing. The brightly colored surfacing beneath the play equipment is a poured-in-place rubber and polyurethane material.

Children Will Fall At Playgrounds. What Shall We Do To Protect Them? A Multipart Blog Series – Part III: An Overview of Selected Playground Safety Technologies

Co-Authored with Aron Olson, PE

Welcome to the third and final post in our multipart series of blog posts about a young boy’s fall and serious injury at a public playground. In our first post we gave a brief overview of the incident and our investigation. In the second post we discussed some of the safety standards applicable to public playgrounds. In this post, we will examine some of the impact-absorbing playground surfaces available to protect children at playgrounds from injury. If you would like to read the first two posts, they are available here and here.
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Figure 1: A typical Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Receptacle.

Testing…testing… Is this thing on?

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Many people just take for granted that something is just going to work, and in many cases assume that it will work forever.  One such device that does not get enough attention is the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).   Simply put, a GFCI is a protective device that compares the current flowing on the hot and neutral wires of the circuit and will “trip” to disconnect power to the circuit if a small imbalance of current is detected.  The imbalance of current is an indication of a dangerous alternate path for the current to flow from a damaged line cord or a fault inside an appliance and constitutes a shock hazard to a person. Read More

Really thick book - Fig 2 (002)

How a Central Indian Town Changed the United State Code of Federal Regulations

On December 3, 1984, at a pesticide ingredient manufacturing facility owned by Union Carbide, a leak occurred in the Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) plant. Due to the toxic nature of the gases released and the plant’s proximity to local residences, the death toll was in the thousands; both plant workers and nearby residents.  The first recorded public meeting in response to this incident was on December 9th, in Institute, WV, the site of Union Carbide’s only US MIC production unit.  Full disclosure: my father was a research & development chemist for Union Carbide and Institute is about 10 miles down the Kanawha River from my hometown of Charleston, WV. Read More

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Water Damage from Leaking Shower Stalls

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Have you ever had to have a leaking shower pan for a tiled shower stall replaced, only to have a recurrence a few years later? If so, it is likely that it was not properly built and/or repaired. In most installations, the shower stall is constructed with an underlying one-piece flexible membrane of PVC that is attached to the wall studs before the backer board and wall tile is installed. No nails or screws should penetrate the membrane below the level of the curb of the shower stall. The only opening in the membrane below the curb must be the hole for the shower drain to connect to the house plumbing. The shower drain is designed to allow water on top of the membrane to flow into the drain via weep holes for that purpose. Read More

Black box inside car

Event Data Recorders and Collision Investigation

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Event Data Recorders (EDRs) were first introduced by General Motors (GM) in 1974.   That data was only available to GM; however, since 1994 more and more vehicle EDR’s have recorded data that can be gathered.  The data captured can be imaged and is being used by vehicle manufacturers, law enforcement officers, and collision reconstructionists to better understand what is happening in a collision.  In accident investigation, EDRs have the potential to provide independent measurements of crash data that would elsewise be estimated by Read More

Figure 1: A view from a vendor's website of a material known as engineered wood fiber that is designed for use as a playground surface.

Children Will Fall At Playgrounds. What Shall We Do To Protect Them? A Multipart Blog Series – Part II: A Brief Summary of Playground Safety Standards

Co-Authored with Aron Olson, PE   

Welcome to the second part in our multipart blog series examining a young boy’s fall and injury at a public playground. If you missed the first part in this series, click www.warrenforensics.com/2017/10/11/children-will-fall-at-playgrounds-what-shall-we-do-to-protect-them-a-multipart-blog-series-part-i/ to read it. In this post, we will highlight some resources that designers of public playgrounds can use to help ensure their designs are reasonably safe. Read More

Figure 1: A typical warning found on a confined space.

Permit-Required Confined Spaces – What You Need to Know to Safely Enter (and Exit!)

According to the OSHA regulations, a confined space is anyplace that meets the following criteria:

(1)   Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work; and
(2)  Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; and
(3)  Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. Read More

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Children Will Fall At Playgrounds. What Shall We Do To Protect Them? A Multipart Blog Series – Part I

Co-Authored with Aron Olson, PE   

In 2011, a 5-year old boy was severely injured at a public playground when he fell through a second floor opening around a fireman’s pole in a playhouse. He fell more than seven feet and struck a bare concrete floor. We are thankful that he eventually recovered from his injuries. The person who designed and built the playground was accused of negligence. A lawsuit ensued, and eventually settled in favor of the boy. Read More

nail gun

Should I Trust My Nail Gun?

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Can you imagine framing a house with the tools of our forefathers, using hand saws and hammers, rather than power saws and pneumatic nail guns? Power tools have made the job much easier and faster, that even the amateur is well equipped for this kind of work. Read More

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