Legionaire’s Disease Makes a Comeback

Legionaire’s disease has been in the news recently and appears to be making a comeback of sorts.  Those old enough to remember will recall when a strange disease made its debut back in 1976 at an American  Legion convention held in Philadelphia.  Seems that several people attending the convention became ill and some died before the culprit was identified.  The culprit was a strain of bacteria that is water borne and thrives in cooling towers of large air conditioning systems.  With that said, there is no reason why Legionaire’s disease should be reappearing.  Since the initial outbreak, standards for water treatment in cooling towers have been revised, developed and implemented in order to minimize corrosion of the tower.  The standards also serve to as a guide on how to chemically treat water in order to prevent the formation of algae and mold as well as disease.  As a result, there is no excuse for building owners to allow their cooling towers to circulate untreated or poorly treated water that could potentially be a health hazard.  If left untreated and the Legionaire’s bacteria is allowed to grow, as the air and water that carries the bacteria enter a building’s fresh air inlet, it can circulate through the duct system.  Once the air and bacteria enter a space where people work, the bacteria can be inhaled and people infected.

How do you tell if your transmission was damaged in an accident?

Earlier this year, we were asked to examine a vehicle that was involved in a two vehicle accident and make a determination of the condition of the transmission pre-impact. The vehicle that was involved was a 2008 Buick Enclave that had already been repaired by the owner’s insurance carrier. The issue of the condition of the transmission arose after the vehicle had been returned to the owner and the owner subsequently drove the vehicle an additional 3100 miles. The transmission became noisy and then failed to move the vehicle after being placed in “Drive”. While investigating this incident, it was learned that the vehicle had been taken to a Valvoline Instant Oil Change Center where all the fluid levels were checked and documented. The transmission was found to have been “full” shortly before the accident occurred.   It was further learned from the body shop that repaired the vehicle that no transmission fluid came out of the transmission fluid cooler lines when the cooler and radiator were removed for replacement – the fluid level was already “low” when the vehicle arrived at the shop. Furthermore, after the new cooler and radiator were installed, no transmission fluid was added before the vehicle was returned to the owner. The vehicle left the body shop with the transmission at some fluid level below “full”. Normal wear and tear on a transmission is a very gradual process. The speed of the wear process is increased when the transmission is forced to operate without lubrication, which is the purpose of the transmission fluid. However, when there is documentation of the fluid level, the process of determining transmission condition becomes a lot easier. The damage to the transmission most likely occurred as a result the accident. The transmission was leaking fluid after the vehicle was returned to the owner.

Takata Airbag Recall

Earlier this year, several automobile manufacturers announced recalls of different vehicle makes as a result of faulty airbags manufactured by a Japanese company called Takata.  Takata manufactured airbags for both driver and passenger’s sides in the recalled vehicles.  After investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others, it has been determined that the propellant used in the airbags has a tendency to deteriorate in humid areas.  As a result, when the airbag is deployed, the combustion of the propellant which produces the pressure to inflate the bag can do so with greater than necessary force.  The excessive force can cause the inflator to rupture sending pieces of metal to the occupant of either the driver or passenger seat resulting in greater risk of injury to the occupant.  The vehicles that are involved in this recall are Acura, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota.  The recall covers models years generally from 2002 through 2008.  In order to determine if the recall applies to a specific vehicle, owners can go to the manufacturer’s website and use its VIN lookup tool or contact a dealer and ask to speak with a service writer then give that person the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Commercial Truck Investigations

R.J. Hill Consulting has recently completed two investigations into the cause of destruction of two large commercial trucks.  One investigation involved a vehicular accident and a possible brake defect while the other investigation involved an engine fire.  In the case of the accident, the brakes were found to have been completely assembled and operational.  In the second case, the fire could have been attributed to at least two different scenarios: a wiring harness that rubbed against an unknown metallic object (such as a wire braided hydraulic hose) that caused a short circuit to occur and the fire ensue.  In the second scenario, a faulty electrical connection at a breaker possibly resulted in overheating of the connection and ignition of combustible material.  Since no definitive cause was identified, the cause of the fire was ruled undetermined.

Kiwanis Presentation

On Wednesday, May 6, R.J. Hill was the guest speaker for the Kiwanis Club of Murfreesboro. Mr. Hill’s presentation was on performing forensic investigations. Specifically, Mr. Hill spoke about why an engineer was needed to investigate insurance claims and what most people don’t know about those investigations.

Oil Filled Heaters Spray Hot Oil, Recalled Due to Burn Hazard

The Consumer Products Safety Commission has announced that Sunbeam Products has recalled approximately 34,000 Holmes Oil Filed heaters, models HOH 3000 and HOH 3000B.  The heaters can cause heated oil to expand and sprayed on to combustible fabrics and carpet resulting in a scalding and fire hazard.  The heaters involved in this recall are also identified as having the following code range: G192 through G 298.  Consumers should stop using the heaters immediately and contact Sunbeam for instructions on how to obtain a refund.  Sunbeam can be contacted by visiting their website at www.holmesproducts.com and clicking on “Oil Filled Heater Recall”.  Sunbeam can also be contacted by calling 1-800-515-4715.  It should be noted that this is not the first time that Holmes has had this problem.  In 2007, a similar recall was made for approximately 300,000 oil filled heaters that also sprayed hot oil and caused a fire hazard.  Officially, the root cause was found to have been overheating due to a poor electrical connection.

General Electric Pays $3.5 million Civil Penalty

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that it has come to an agreement with General Electric regarding an imposed penalty for not reporting defects in two of its product lines. The products were identified as the “Profile” dual fuel ranges and “Profile and Monogram” dishwashers. According to the CPSC, press release number 15-082 dated February 19, 2015; General Electric had been notified about overheating of a wiring harness connector back in 2004 but did not report the problem until 2009. It was further determined that the overheating of the connector could also pose a fire hazard. In April of 2009, General Electric recalled 28,000 dual fuel ranges because of the hazard. Furthermore, the CPSC has determined that the control board in “Profile” and “Monogram” dishwashers can short circuit as result of the buildup of condensation on the boards. The short circuiting can also pose fire and burn hazards. According to the CPSC, General Electric had known about the problem since 2007 but failed to report the defect to the CPSC until 2010. Instead, the company chose to settle claims and make payments based on reports of defective units. In October of 2010, the company recalled 174,000 units.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers to notify the CPSC immediately after learning of a potential defect in a product that could be hazardous to consumers. Consumers can report a dangerous product by going on line to www.saferproducts.gov or calling the CPSC hotline at 1-800-638-2772.

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