Category : Bryan J. Smith

Gym Bleacher Danger


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Bryan J. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety / OSHA Expert ::::

Case Description/Summary: The gym bleachers at a public school moved when a parent attempted to climb them. The accessible bleacher section slid closed and trapped the parent’s leg which caused the parent to fall and sustain injuries.

Expert Analysis: A field inspection of the incident location was performed, and a defect was found to exist in the accessible portion of the bleachers. When the accessible bleacher section was pushed to the open position, latches were supposed to lock it in place. However, the latches had not been installed correctly at the manufacturer. When the bleachers had first been installed in the gym by a professional bleacher installation firm many years prior to the incident, they took no corrective measures to fix the problem. The bleachers were also missing some of the critical latching hardware right from the start. A school maintenance worker discovered that some hardware had been missing long after the installation had been performed, and he asked the installer to send the missing hardware to him, which they did. Even after the missing hardware had been installed by the school maintenance department, the accessible section of bleachers would not latch and lock in the open position. As that accessible section was supported on rollers, it would roll freely in either the open or closed directions with the application of any bidirectional force – such as applied when a person tries to climb them.

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At Odds: A Disagreement Between a Subcontractor and a Homeowner


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Bryan J. Smith, PE, CFEI, Construction Site Safety Consultant ::::

Case Description/Summary: A concrete subcontractor was hired by a homeowner to replace a concrete patio, driveway, sidewalk and steps at the home. Prior to completing the work, the homeowner decided that the subcontractor’s work was sub-par and threw the subcontractor off the property and withheld the final job payment. The subcontractor subsequently sued to retrieve the earned compensation. The homeowner counter-sued for defective and incomplete work.

Expert Analysis: A site survey was performed to document the site conditions at the property. Several shrinkage cracks were found in the concrete driveway. It was determined that the shrinkage cracks were due to missing contraction joints; however, the homeowner admitted that she threw the contractor off of the property just when he attempted to saw-cut the joints. One saw-cut joint was poorly aligned with the edge of slab at the rear patio. Three expansion joints were missing at front and rear sections of pavement. The homeowner alleged that in addition to these defects, the garage door lock could not be latched because of an incorrectly sloped apron and the interface between the new rear patio and the existing upper deck support post foundations were ugly.

A field evaluation report was issued, which determined that the homeowner was responsible for the missing contraction joints and the resulting cracks. The “ugly” concrete interface was due to incomplete work (due to being thrown off the job prematurely) and a misunderstanding between the parties on how these junctions were to be addressed. The issue with the garage door lock/latch was caused by an improperly adjusted latch mechanism and not by the concrete apron under the door. The missing expansion joints could be made retroactively for well under $1,000. The one poorly aligned saw-cut joint could be filled with caulking of the same color as the concrete to mitigate the aesthetic impact.

The homeowner hired an engineer and a contractor in an attempt to refute the submitted evaluation report. Their mutual recommendations included the removal and replacement of all the work performed by the subcontractor for a cost at over 35% of the original cost. No agreement was reached between the parties and a trial ensued. Trial testimony was offered and the jury decided in favor of the subcontractor.

Bryan J. Smith, PE, CFEI, is a Construction Site Safety Consultant with DJS Associates and can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

Potholes Are a Nuisance to More Than Just Drivers


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Col. Bryan J. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety / Slip and Fall / OSHA Consultant ::::

Case Summary: While walking on the parking lot driveway on her way to her apartment, the plaintiff stepped into a pothole which caused her to trip and fall. Her fall resulted in multiple injuries. The plaintiff sued the property owner and the property manager.

Expert Analysis: A site survey was performed to document the site conditions at the location of the incident, which occurred on July 28, 2014. At the time (approximately 10:30 pm), the plaintiff was walking on the apartment complex’s parking lot driveway to her apartment. The plaintiff encountered unstable footing due to the presence of a pothole at a point where the available parking lot lighting no longer illuminated her pathway to the apartment. This damaged/deteriorated driveway was identified six months earlier by the property manager as needing repair/remediation. The damaged/deteriorated pavement presented a non-uniform walking surface which caused the plaintiff to fall and consequently sustain injuries.

A review was made of the borough’s ordinances; the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards, The International Property Maintenance Code, and ASTM 1637-13 Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces. It was found that the incident pothole violated all of the reviewed standards and ordinances, and therefore was a hazardous situation that was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s trip and fall incident. It was also found that the property owner and property manager had sufficient knowledge of the pothole and plenty of time to enact repairs prior to the incident.

Result: The plaintiff accepted a settlement offer.

Col. Bryan J. Smith, PE is a Construction Site Safety / Slip and Fall / OSHA Consultant with DJS Associates and can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.