& Engineering Services
Luis R. Carney, P.E., President and Technical Leader
Have Questions? Get Answers:
Dr. Luis R. Carney, 04/28/2019.
a Failure: The First Days in The Field
failure investigation or analysis is unique. A set of rules that
applies to every case cannot be written. Nevertheless, the list below
provides some guidance on the basic principles involved in evidence
gathering and preservation in the field for the purposes of a more
thorough failure investigation or analysis later.
starting anything, it is presumed that the substances, objects,
machines, structures or locations in question have been rendered safe
for handling or inspection. Ensure that the proper authorities have
deemed them to be safe. If there is any doubt, the best advice is
always: do not go near
it and, especially, do not touch!
In particular, stay away from fire, gases, fluids, fibers and anything
that could constitute a bio-hazard. Check the applicable Materials
Safety Data Sheets for items likely to be there.
Several industry standards such as ASTM E860 (Practice for Examining And
Preparing Items That Are Or May Become Involved In Criminal or Civil
Litigation), ASTM E1020 (Practice for Reporting Incidents
that May Involve Criminal or Civil Litigation) and ASTM
E1188 (Practice for
Collection and Preservation of Information and Physical Items by a
may be helpful to personnel that expect to be called at a moment’s
notice for advice. My own tips based on years of experience
Get help from technically trained personnel as soon as possible after
the failure. Evidence, supporting documentation and people tend to
disperse quickly after an event.
2. While documenting a scene
or device, use great care to minimize disturbing or altering the
original condition of either. Changing small details can later become
3. Take lots of pictures from different angles. If necessary, vary
4. Supplement digital images with video.
Use extreme care in handling parts. Wear gloves appropriate for the
job. Look out for sharp edges and burrs. Do not mess with
that may be hot, electrified, pressurized or spring loaded.
may kill you.
Do not touch parts, specially fracture surfaces, with bare fingers.
Touching with bare hands can lead to accelerated surface corrosion and
the obliteration of important details.
7. Do not attempt to put
fracture surfaces together. Doing so may lead to metal-to-metal contact
and subsequent surface smearing at a microscopic scale.
parts with damage or fracture surfaces that are expected to be relevant
should be protected from handling and transportation damage (impact,
rubbing etc…). Small ones should be preserved in separate, clear and
labeled “zip-lock” type plastic bags. Protecting things in
bubble wrap is a generally good idea.
Air dry any parts that are going to be bagged or cannot be taken to a
laboratory quickly. Storing parts under conditions where they cannot
dry is likely to lead to accelerated corrosion and obliteration of
important information. If temporary storage is required, an
conditioned room is best. The low humidity will provide some
protection against surface corrosion.
10. Bag Labels should include: name of part, where recovered,
associated pictures, date, and appropriate warnings.
Write down to the best of your ability the known facts and
circumstances surrounding the failure. Background information will be
useful to the analyst in determining which failure scenarios and
mechanisms are possible and which are not.
12. Identify witnesses and their observations before, during and after
13. Identify manufacturers, part numbers and serial numbers for items
14. Identify hours of operation.
15. Identify place and time since last maintenance, rework or overhaul.
16. Obtain drawings and manufacturing specifications for failed parts
17. Obtain and preserve maintenance records and manuals.
Share all available information with your technical adviser
soon as possible and begin to formulate an inspection plan.
Determine what else might be necessary for a
19. Consider retaining Southeastern
to do these things for you. We have over 30 years experience
performing these functions in many high profile cases. We
happy to discuss what needs to be done as soon as you are.
Dr. Luis R. Carney,
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