Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Category Archive: Tips and Advice

Experience the Ride, Ride for Experience

A lot of people own motorcycle(s). Not a lot of people have experience riding motorcycles. More people have motorcycles stored in their garages, covered with all kinds of things, than ride motorcycles. In a similar neglect, there are those people who take their motorcycle out occasionally but never really put the miles or hours on the bike. This means that most of the people that have registered motorcycles do not get a lot of “seat time”. This issue leads to collisions involving motorcycles that should not have happened for more than one reason. When it comes to collision reconstruction and investigations, “ride to live” takes on a whole different meaning. Read More

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Roadway Defect Scavenger Hunt for Collision Evidence

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Not too long back, I was on the scene of a collision case where a roadway defect was blamed for the loss of control that led to a single vehicle collision which resulted in major damages and serious injury.  The collision was several years old, and the roadway had not changed over the time passed.  My assignment was to inspect the roadway in the area of the crash, document it (by photographs and 3D scanning), and identify if there was a roadway issue that potentially led to the loss of control.  What happened next was the result of going to the collision location and looking for more than what was to be expected.  These things can help the case tremendously and make a huge difference in resolution. Read More

The Pavement Tells the Story: Reading Evidence from a Motorcycle Crash

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What can be determined from a motorcycle’s skid mark and the roadway evidence it left behind? The obvious, that the motorcycle crashed; but what more? From a recent case, starting with the pre-impact skid mark, a lot was determined about the driver’s (and passenger’s) input into the crash. A single skid mark started at the beginning of the collision location, a common piece of evidence at a motorcycle crash. Taking that mark and analyzing it, several things were determined. Read More

Heat Exchanger Failures Will Shut Your Process Down

Heat exchangers, as the name implies, are used to bring a process stream to a desired temperature.  They can heat or cool either gases or liquids. They are fairly intricate in their construction, therefore not the cheapest piece of equipment to purchase.  For that reason, facilities don’t keep “spare” exchangers lying around, so when they fail catastrophically, the entire manufacturing process goes down with them… and stays down until they are fixed or replaced. Ow!

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Major Causes of Wood Truss Failures

Wood truss failures can vary and identifying the cause requires visual inspection as well as a working knowledge of the structural loads and building codes. These truss systems must transfer the gravity and lateral loads to the foundations. Consequently, the framing system and the foundation provide strength and stability for a structure. The most common type of wood-framed construction uses roof trusses, exterior and interior load-bearing walls, beams, girders, posts, and floor framing to resist the gravity and vertical loads. This type of wood-framed construction engages a system of horizontal diaphragms (roof and floors) and shear walls (vertical exterior sheathed walls) to resist the lateral loads. Read More

Stress Corrosion Cracking of Stainless Steel in Marine Environments

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Stress corrosion cracking involves the slow growth of small, often microscopic, cracks through a metal part in a corrosive environment.  The cracking can continue to the point that the part fails suddenly and unexpectedly even though it still appears new and in good condition.

My first experience with stress corrosion cracking happened in the Charleston harbor when the stainless steel rudder suddenly separated from a sailboat during moderate winds. What had been a pleasant evening sail turned instantly into being in a difficult to control boat in the middle of the busy shipping channel. The rudder remained attached only 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

P&ID’s, If You Please – Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams Explained

When investigating an industrial incident, one piece of information I always ask for is the relevant P&ID’s for the process.  P&ID stands for Piping and Instrumentation Diagram and is defined as “A schematic diagram of the relationship between instruments, controllers, piping, and system equipment.” A set of P&ID’s for an entire facility allows you to trace the entire manufacturing process from raw material unloading to finished product loadout, including utilities like steam, water, fuel, and air. That’s great information to have, but isn’t especially useful Read More

The Paths of Chemical Exposure

The Safety Hierarchy states that hazards should be mitigated first by engineering controls, secondly by guarding, and lastly by warning/training.  When the first two, engineering controls and guards, fail in a manufacturing setting, a chemical release could occur. A forensic chemical engineer can help determine the root cause of that failure. Read More

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