Forensic Engineering Investigation of Workplace Incidents Involving Machinery

Richard Ziernicki, Ph.D., P.E. (308F)


On many occasions, a forensic engineer faces numerous questions when investigating workplace incidents involving machinery, such as: Why did this incident happen? Was it the operator who caused the incident? Was the operator properly trained? Was the equipment properly maintained? Was the equipment defectively designed or manufactured?

This paper focuses on potential product defect issues. How can one determine whether or not the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous? The paper outlines issues related to the investigation of product liability cases, and discusses potential procedures and steps to be taken in order to establish whether or not the product is defective or unreasonably dangerous.

The author explains the role of industrial regulations and standards from sources such as the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and other entities in the process of assessing product safety. In addition, the role of the safety triad, technical and economic feasibility, and warnings/instructions in assessing product safety are examined. The author also discusses another useful approach to safety: implementation of Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA). Finally, two product cases are presented to illustrate the process of safety analysis and investigation.

Published By


Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers
June 2015