What’s Going On?

Just completed an investigation into why the mast of a rock drilling machine came crashing down on the machine with no warning.  If you’ve ever seen a rock drilling machine, they are equipped with a mast that rests in a horizontal position and can be raised into a vertical position for drilling.  In this particular case, the mast was in the process of being lowered when four bolts failed at the pivot points where the mast rotates from the vertical to horizontal.  Looks like it was just one of those unfortunate things that happens.  Currently conducting an investigation into why the electrical system in a cement mixing truck appears to have short circuited and burned some of the wiring.

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More on the Use of PEX Pipe

I just completed watching a webinar on “Designing Effective PEX Hydronic Piping Systems”. I have written on the subject of PEX piping before (See “The Problem with PEX Pipe” published 7/21/2012 and “Update – The Problem with PEX Pipe published 1/9/2013) and as a refresher, PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene.  This is a chemical process whereby pipe is manufactured by cross linking elements of the molecules that make up the material.  The resulting pipe definitely has some advantages in terms of price and handling.  However, no matter who the manufacturer is, the pipe still has two major drawbacks: it is affected by UV radiation (sunlight and similar lighting) and it is made brittle by chlorine.  In the case of hydronic systems, these are systems that carry cooled or heated water for cooling and heating purposes, mostly found in large commercial and office buildings.  These types of systems don’t carry potable water and as a result are not susceptible to the deterioration caused by chlorine.  Since the piping is usually hidden, it is also protected from the effects of UV radiation.  The concern arises when PEX piping is used in plumbing applications to carry potable water to any end user.  Chlorine can and will attack the pipe and cause it to eventually leak.  Water leakage, depending on the location can result in property damage costing thousands of dollars to repair.  Some manufacturers use antioxidants to neutralize the effect caused by chlorine but, it can be “used up”.  That is, when the antioxidant effect has been depleted, chlorine will continue to attack the pipe as if the antioxidant were never there.  Uponor, the sponsor of the aforementioned webinar, has been contacted and questions submitted for their response but, we have not yet heard back from them.  If Uponor responds after this article is published, then we will pass along their comments.

This is What Can Happen When the Sprinkler System Doesn’t Work…

The previous post on fire protection systems training talked about systems and the importance of maintaining that equipment.  The following describes one instance and the consequences if the sprinkler system isn’t operational.

On December 1, 2008 a warehouse building, located in Dyersburg Tennessee and owned by the Bekaert Corporation, was destroyed by fire. The building complex is shown in the photo below.

 

The wing on the left was the side that was completely destroyed. At the time of the fire, the warehouse had been leased to Briggs and Stratton for storage of their lawn mower products.  It was later determined that Briggs and Stratton lost approximately $25,000,000.00 in inventory.  When the lease was signed, one of the clauses stated that Briggs accepted the building in an “As Is, Where Is” condition.  It also required Briggs to make any repairs required by codes to bring the building into compliance.  Codes, in turn, required that Briggs obtain a certificate of occupancy prior to moving into the building – neither of which were done.  (Our involvement in this investigation was as a codes consultant.)  Briggs moved in to the building, brought in their products and stacked them to the point where the use of the building would have been classified “High Piled Storage”.  For over one year, the building contained products that were put at risk by the manufacturer, Briggs and Stratton.  When the investigation into the fire had been completed, there were some differing opinions as to the cause of the fire.  However, most of the discussion was centered on a metal halide lamp and a bulb that possibly exploded.  Because most of Briggs’ products were stacked above 12 feet, the explosion of a metal halide bulb could easily have ignited combustible material, ie, pallets wrapped with plastic. With no sprinkler system in operation, there was no way to stop the fire in its initial stages.  As a result, the building and all its contents were destroyed.

Using Drones for Claims Investigations

 

The insurance claims industry has been publishing articles claiming to increase the use of drones for investigating property claims. Travelers Insurance Company was recently highlighted in an article in Insurance Journal magazine titled “Travelers’ Drone Program is Changing the Way its Claims Reps Do Business”, dated May 11, 2017.  In the article, Travelers is teaching claims adjusters to use drones to inspect property instead of physically going to the property and doing the inspection.  Where roofs are concerned, there is an obvious safety benefit.  However, the move is to eliminate sending an adjuster altogether thereby eliminating the expense of travel and on-site adjusting time not to mention is reduction in claim handling time.  What about auto claims and water damage claims and fire claims?  If a drone can be used to assess the damage without sending an adjuster to the scene, then the cost savings to the carrier will be very beneficial.  However, whatever cannot be seen by an adjuster now will not be seen by a drone either.  Hidden damage in roofs, vehicles or structures will present the same problem that it does today.  That is, what is not viewable and is not accounted for will have to examined and dealt with when the damage is discovered.  This further implies that roofers will be submitting estimates for additional work.  Similarly, auto mechanics and body shops will be submitting estimates for additional work when hidden damage is brought to light in their respective jobs.  Building contractors will be doing the same thing when they discover problems in structures that will have to be addressed before the building is ready to be reoccupied.  As tempting as drone technology is to insurance carriers; there are restrictions regarding flight over certain areas.  The FAA prohibits flight over certain populated areas and as a matter of safety, they are restricted within a certain distance from airports.  There are also concerns of privacy and whether or not a carrier might be spying on a customer.  Furthermore, can the photographic data be used to intentionally deny coverage to a customer as well as support a claim? Reports of carriers intentionally denying or shorting customers on their settlements is not unheard of and will continue.  Drone technology will facilitate this process.  After all is said and done, drone technology still has a ways to go before it is fully accepted as a common way of doing business.

Chevy Impala Exploding Manifold

Dan Rosnet has posted the contact information for those at General Motors that he spoke to about his problem.  Please see Mr. Rosnet’s post on the “Comments” page for the information if you would like to Contact GM.

Roofs Shouldn’t Look Like This!

Anyone who has lived in a home with a shingled roof knows that at some point in time, the roof will have to be replaced. Whether the home is a manufactured (mobile) home or a permanent structure, all of the elements play a significant role in the wear and tear of the shingles.  When it’s time to select a roofing contractor, be careful! Make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable company.  Ask for references if necessary and check them out.  Don’t ever give anyone any money up front because in all likelihood, you’ll never see them again.  The photos shown below are just two examples of what a newly installed roof should never look like.  The first photo shows how wavy a roof can appear if there is a problem with the roof decking.  The decking must be repaired or replaced BEFORE the felt and shingles are nailed down.  The second photo shows caulking that was applied to valleys alongside a gable because someone recognized a problem, usually water leakage.  Using caulking on a newly installed roof is never acceptable.  If the roofers didn’t install the valley shingles correctly the first time, the roofer should have to redo the work again.  However, getting the roofing contractor to tear off the shingles and then reinstall new ones might be easier said than done.  It is possible that a roofer would rather apply a caulking or some type of mastic beneath the shingle rather than re-shingle the area.  If this seems like an acceptable solution, again, be careful.  If a leak occurs in the future, getting the roofer to fix it under warranty will be next to impossible.  One way to test a new roof is to spray water on the roof with a garden hose then check the attic for signs of water leakage.  Don’t wait until it rains.  The sooner a leak is detected, the easier it will be to hold the roofer responsible if an adversarial situation arises.

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Note wavy Roof

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Caulking used on valleys

Cut Those Tree Limbs!!!

I just completed an assignment where contact between a power line and a tree limb caused damage to several home appliances. We all know that power lines are sometimes routed through tree branches between the transformer and the weatherhead on a residential or commercial building roof.  It’s also no secret that electricity can travel through a tree.  In this particular case, contact with the limb came about as a result of rubbing so that when the wire insulation had worn off and the conductor was exposed, a short circuit to ground was created.  When this happens, current is going to go in all directions.  It is possible to energize the neutral side of a building’s electrical system so that current is fed into an appliance in the wrong way which causes damage.  Although electric utilities sometimes take on the responsibility for pruning tress, home and building owners should be proactive in helping to maintain the safety and reliability of power distribution.  As this article is being written, the northeast is being “slammed” with a huge winter snow storm.  It’s no stretch of the imagination to conceive of the number of power lines that will come down as result of broken tree limbs.  But, keeping tree limbs pruned and off power lines can mean the difference between staying warm and waiting several hours if not days for utility crews to make repairs.  Remember, unless you are in an extremely isolated area, the transformer that feeds you home or business, also feeds your neighbor’s homes and businesses.

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