Tag Archives: John R. Yannaccone

Automatic Gate Closes on Man

Automatic Gate

John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::

Case Synopsis: One evening at closing time, an employee at a self-storage facility opened an electric gate to allow a car to drive out of the facility. As the driver was leaving, he stopped his car in the path of the gate to talk to an employee and a customer. The customer was standing next to the stopped car, adjacent to the gate. Suddenly, the gate began to close and pinned the customer between the gate and the car. The driver moved forward to prevent the gate from hitting his car, but this caused the pinned customer to be twisted between the car and gate, resulting in additional injury.

Expert Analysis: By the time an engineer was retained to investigate the cause of the incident, the storage facility had replaced the gate operator and disposed of the system in use at the time of the incident. Based on the materials provided, the following was determined:

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Man V. Machine

John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::

Case Synopsis: On the morning of the incident, a machine operator reported that the clamps used to hold a workpiece were not gripping as tight as they normally do. The maintenance worker was alerted to this problem, and he and his helper went to repair equipment. The maintenance worker reported he adjusted the clamping mechanism and asked his helper to press the button to actuate the clamps. The helper moved to the control panel and depressed a button. At that time the two portions of the machine moved together, entrapping and crushing the lower portion of the maintenance worker’s body. The maintenance worker alleged the machine malfunctioned during the repair, resulting in him sustaining serious crush injuries to his lower body. It was further alleged that the equipment lacked the safety system to prevent motion of the machine during maintenance.

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Ambulance vs. Van: Medical Transport of Resident

Ambulance Transport Expert

John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::

Case Synopsis: An adolescent residential care facility, and their employees, were named as defendants in a case where a teenage resident was being transported to a medical facility for a non-emergent condition. During the transport, the resident opened the vehicle door, jumped from the moving vehicle, and sustained serious injuries. The plaintiff stated that the residential facility should have transported the resident via ambulance rather than a facility van. They further stated that the second staff member should have been seated adjacent to the resident rather than in the passenger seat, implying this would have prevented the occupant from being able to jump from the vehicle.

Expert Analysis: Numerous failures on the part of the facility and staff were alleged by the plaintiff. Plaintiff’s expert claimed the facility should have identified the patient as a suicide risk and transported them in an ambulance. He further opined the van was an unsuitable means of transport due to the lack of ability to contain/restrain the occupant. The defendant was able to show, through testimony of staff members and psychiatric professionals who were acquainted with the resident, that there were no indications the resident intended to hurt themselves, they just did not want to be in the van.

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Pet Safety in the Car

Animal Safety in Cars

John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::

As an engineer who deals with occupant safety in vehicles, I occasionally get asked questions related to vehicle pet safety. Earlier this year, the topic gained attention when a Maine state legislator introduced a bill to require dogs to be harnessed or tethered in a moving vehicle. The bill was later withdrawn, but the questions remain. Some states have laws on the books to address issues with drivers who operate their vehicles with a dog on their lap. Frequently, this is related to the risk of the dog distracting the driver or interfering with the operation of the vehicle. A 2012 New Jersey law makes it illegal to transport an animal in “a cruel or inhumane manner”; however, this has led to many questions as to what constitutes “a cruel or inhumane manner”. Only Hawaii prohibits driving with a dog that is free to move about the vehicle.

When asked about the safety of using a harness to restrain dogs in a vehicle, the initial response is to ask whose safety they are concerned with, as the answer can be different. There are many different animal restraints on the market, and prices vary widely. If the concern is preventing the animal from being able to climb up into the front seat, distract the driver or interfere with operation of the vehicle, just about any of the systems will serve that purpose. If the concern is to prevent a dog from falling or jumping out of a car window, there are fewer capable of that task; many systems though can keep Fido from exiting the vehicle. The real issues arise when the question is the ability of the pet restraint to function properly in the event of a crash.

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Child Seat Cold Weather Safety

John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::

As the weather starts to turn cooler, the need to add layers to keep warm begins. However, everyone needs to make sure the added layers do not compromise safety. This is especially true when it comes to children who are in child seats. While we all want our children to stay warm during a car ride, we need to be sure we are doing it in a safe way.

One of the major problems seen is dressing children in bulky or puffy coats. As the general rule, bulky coats should not be worn under the harness of a child seat. These coats prevent the harness from being tightened to the child’s body and compromise the safety of the child seat by reducing the effectiveness of the harness.

Frequently, the next question people ask is, “How do I know if my child’s coat is too bulky?”
There is a simple test you can perform to see if your child’s coat is bulky, and will cause the harness to be less effective. Start by putting your child’s coat on them, place them in their child seat, and tighten the harness. A properly tightened harness is one that you cannot pinch the harness webbing between your fingers.

Next, without loosening the harness adjustor(s), unbuckle the harness and take your child out of the child seat. Take your child’s coat off and place them back into the child seat and buckle the harness without adjusting the straps. Try and pinch the webbing as you did before. Is there more slack than there was when your child had their coat on? If so, the coat is too bulky to wear under the harness. The slack you see is what would be seen in a crash when the puffiness of the coat is compressed by the forces of the crash, and would reduce how well the harness restrains your child.

So how do you keep your child warm in the car if they have a coat that is too bulky to wear under the harness? Following are some options:

  • See if you can find a less bulky coat, i.e. a thinner fabric like an insulated sweatshirt or fleece coat which can provide warmth without bulk.
  • Have your child remove their bulky jacket before they get in the child seat. After harnessing them in, cover them with a blanket. This is a good method if you are using a carrier style child seat since you can harness the child in and cover them with a blanket before going outside.
  • Rather than a blanket, you can also place the child’s coat on them backwards after they are harnessed into the child seat. In this case, the coat serves as a blanket with arms.

Remember, no matter which of these options you choose, harnessing a child too loosely in their child seat is one of the most common errors made. Leaving slack in the harness will increase the movement of a child in a crash, and can even allow them to be ejected from the child seat. You still need to tighten the harness so you cannot pinch the webbing. Taking these steps will help keep your children warm and safe during your travels in colder weather.

John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.

Child Seat Safety

Child Car Safety

John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::

Case Synopsis: A vehicle was entering an intersection when a pickup made a left turn across its path. The front of the car impacted the passenger side of the pickup and then came to rest in the intersection. The impacting car had three occupants, two adults and a young child. When the police arrived on the scene, the mother was holding an unconscious child. The parents reported their child was in his rear facing infant seat at the time of the impact; however, the mother took him out following the collision. The child was taken to the hospital where he later died as the result of blunt head trauma.

Expert Analysis: The collision was a minor to moderate impact in which a child, properly restrained in a child seat, should not have experienced any serious or fatal injuries. The parents, who reported they were not wearing their seatbelts, sustained only minor bumps and bruises in the collision.

The vehicle and the child seat were inspected. It was observed that the seatbelt was securing the child seat in the car, and the harness used to secure the child was loaded. However, the harness was routed through the child seat using a path for a much larger child, and the harness was adjusted to the maximum length. Both of these pieces of evidence were inconsistent with the small size of the child and would result in a harness that would be extremely loose on such a small child. During the inspection, the car seat cover/pad was removed and revealed a large towel which was folded and placed under the cover. When asked, the parents stated that the harness was very loose on the child so they placed the towel under the child in order to make the harness fit better.

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