Tag Archives: John R. Yannaccone

Giant Swing Fall


Zip Line Trees

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

Case Synopsis: An employee of an outdoor adventure facility was participating in an in-house training scenario where the employees were to complete a rope course. One of the obstacles involved a giant swing that used a carabiner to connect the participant’s harness to a swing line attached to two trees. A second line was connected to a quick release and was used to pull or haul the participant approximately 25 feet up. The participant pulled a small rope to actuate the release mechanism, which dropped the haul line and allowed the participant to swing from the swing line.

Several other participants had safely used the giant swing on the day of the incident prior to the plaintiff’s turn. When it was his turn, the plaintiff went to the bottom of the swing where the operator (another employee) connected the two lines and the plaintiff was hauled up. When the plaintiff pulled the release rope, he was completely discharged from the swing and fell approximately 25 feet to the ground where he sustained serious injuries.

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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.

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