Setting Boundaries: Construction Work Zone

construction code expert witness

Lt. Col. Bryan Smith, P.E., Construction Site Safety Consultant
Case Summary: A dump truck, which exited a construction zone after delivering a load of asphalt paving material, struck and killed a pedestrian. The construction firm that performed the parking lot repairs hired an expert to evaluate the incident location and determine if it was within a work zone and if so, whether certain motor vehicle/pedestrian precautions were necessary and/or enacted by the construction firm.
Expert Analysis: An evaluation of the incident location was made using Google Earth satellite photos. The Google Earth photos documented what work had been performed at the time of the incident, about one year and nine months earlier from the engagement of an expert. Continue reading “Setting Boundaries: Construction Work Zone”

Ground Defect Causes Delay, Putting Pedestrian in Harm’s Way

Bryan J. Smith, P.E., Construction Site Safety / Slip, Trip and Fall Expert
Case Description/Summary: The plaintiff was bicycling on a public street which was located at the side of a bank’s property. As she entered the bank’s driveway ramp, a ground surface defect caused her bicycle to become unstable, though it did not fall. The plaintiff quickly tried to stabilize the bicycle by taking her feet off of the bicycle’s foot pedals and placing them onto the ground in order to prevent the bike and herself from falling onto the sidewalk. As she attempted to do so, she was struck by an automobile being driven by one of the defendants. The plaintiff alleged that the motor vehicle collision caused her injuries. Continue reading “Ground Defect Causes Delay, Putting Pedestrian in Harm’s Way”

Even Duct Tape has its Limitations!


Bryan J. Smith, P.E., Construction Site Safety / Slip, Trip and Fall Consultant
Case Description/Summary: A retail patron attempted to exit the establishment’s front entryway when a piece of raised duct tape on the flooring caught his toe causing him to trip and fall down the exterior steps of the facility. The plaintiff received serious and permanent injuries during this event.
Expert Analysis: A site survey was conducted approximately two years after the incident to gather evidence on behalf of the plaintiff. The building’s entryway threshold was found to have duct tape, similar to that seen in photos taken by the plaintiff at the time of the incident. (see photo below). It was apparent that the establishment’s owner/operator used the duct tape to secure loose rolled vinyl flooring at the door’s threshold position. The owner/operator would remove and reapply duct tape at that location “as-needed” when it became loose and detached. His actions established notice of the condition and the temporary nature of the duct tape “repair.” Continue reading “Even Duct Tape has its Limitations!”

Current Codes v. Grandfather Clause

Lt. Col. Bryan J. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety / OSHA Consultant ::::
An elderly gentleman was walking down an exterior pedestrian walkway when he tripped and fell onto the adjacent parking surface and sustained serious injuries. An improper handrail configuration at that location prevented him from grabbing it to stabilize himself and thereby prevent his fall.
The plaintiff stated that he previously requested the property owners add a handrail to the lowest step of the incident stairs; however, the request had not been accomplished prior to the date of the incident. The location of this tripping incident was Belgium block curbing that had a section raised up about an inch or so from the adjacent sidewalk elevation at the bottom of the stairway. Plaintiff did not notice that the incident Belgium block curbing was in a raised condition until after his incident. The raised curbing/block tripped the plaintiff, while the absence of the necessary handrail prevented him from catching his balance and thereby avoiding the fall. Continue reading “Current Codes v. Grandfather Clause”

Shortest Route Not Always the Best on Work Site


LT. Col. Bryan J. Smith, PE, Construction Site Safety / OSHA Expert ::::
Case Description/Summary: A material delivery-man was walking on the construction site to determine where materials needed to be placed for his delivery. As he tried to step through a rough-framed wall, he failed to notice the elevation differential between the room he was leaving and the one he was entering through the wall studs. Either the floors’ elevation difference or a metal concrete pour–stop present at that spot caused him to trip and fall.
Expert Analysis: The plaintiff stated that he was pushing his drywall material cart through the building, which was under construction by the defendant General Contractor (GC). Plaintiff decided to ask the subcontractor, who ordered the material, where they wanted it to be placed. The subcontractor’s men were in a room which was two areas away from where he was located at that point. Instead of pushing his cart through a nearby rough-framed door opening and down the corridor to reach those men, the plaintiff decided to abandon his cart and step through a rough-framed metal stud wall for a “short-cut”. The stud framed wall, which the plaintiff attempted to step through, was a dividing wall between two areas that were at different elevations. The side that he stepped from was eight inches lower than the other side. The dividing point between the two elevations was formed by a piece of metal that had been attached to the face of the stud framing at the side of the higher floor elevation for use as a concrete pour-stop. Plaintiff alleged that he stepped over it and then fell due to broken concrete debris on the elevated floor in the next room. During his fall, he alleged that the metal strip lacerated his leg. Continue reading “Shortest Route Not Always the Best on Work Site”

Gym Bleacher Danger


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. Continue reading “Gym Bleacher Danger”

At Odds: A Disagreement Between a Subcontractor and a Homeowner


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 or via phone at 215-659-2010.

Water Damage Mystery


Col. Bryan J. Smith, P.E., Construction Site Safety / OSHA Consultant ::::
Case Description/Summary: A recently constructed home began showing signs of water infiltration and damage. The plaintiff hired an architect to inspect the home in order to identify the cause(s) after the builder failed to take adequate measures to fix the problem. The architect identified problems with the roofing and stucco cladding.
Expert Analysis: An engineer was engaged on behalf of the carpenter subcontractor to defend against allegations made that inadequate carpenter workmanship contributed to and/or caused the stucco to leak.
The plaintiff’s expert argued that the wood stud framing and exterior oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing were installed defectively and that this allowed the stucco to crack and leak during rain events. Continue reading “Water Damage Mystery”

“We Don’t Tie-Off on this Job!”

Steel Decking

Lt. Col. Bryan Smith, Construction Site Safety Consultant ::::
Case Summary: An ironworker with 31 years of experience had just started his first day of work installing second-floor steel decking at approximately 15’ above grade level (AGL). This ironworker intended to jump from a pile of wet steel floor decking, on which he was standing, onto some decking they had just previously placed. The ironworker’s foot slipped on the wet steel, causing him to fall from the second floor level. As a result of the fall, the ironworker sustained severe injuries. Fall protection equipment (FPE) was available to the ironworker, but after questioning his foreman about its use, the worker alleged that he was informed “We don’t tie-off on this job.” The ironworker then thought that if he demanded use of the FPE that he would be fired. He chose to forego the use of the fall protection equipment. The general contractor (GC) presented a job safety orientation briefing to the ironworker within the hour just preceding the incident and in it was the job requirement for use of FPE for all work at heights above six feet. Continue reading ““We Don’t Tie-Off on this Job!””