Display Falls on Patron

Safety Rack - OSHA Expert Witness

Bryan J. Smith, PE, Engineering Safety / OSHA Consultant ::::
Case Description/Summary: A retail home merchandise establishment improperly erected a display rack, which failed and fell onto a customer. As a consequence of the display rack’s fall, the plaintiff sustained injuries.
Expert Analysis: The plaintiff stated that he was sitting on the floor while looking at a lower elevation of a retail curtain display when, without notice, the display rack became unstable and crashed down onto him. The plaintiff did not know why the display rack became unstable and fell.
Since the time of the incident, the store location involved in the case had been closed, so a site inspection of the incident location was not possible. However another of the store’s locations had a similar display rack. It was inspected as an exemplar to establish potential causes and/or similarities with respect to the merchandise display racks used at both locations. The display racks involved were commonly used in the retail community. They consisted of a steel frame with open steel side channels, and they could accept different types of backboards for use in displaying different types of merchandise. The type involved in this case was a slatwall type backboard, which had been manufactured from medium-density fiberboard (also known simply as MDF), and it had steel channels inserted into its routed slots. As the steel channel inserts did not engage the side steel frames and the MDF was not strong enough to prevent heavy merchandise from breaking the inserts out of the MDF panels which contained them, the manufacturer designed them to be used with side retention brackets. The retention brackets were to be placed at both ends of any insert which was to be loaded with merchandise. In this way, the merchandise weight and the torque that they created through the cantilevered brackets could be directly transmitted and carried by the supporting steel frames at the sides. Continue reading “Display Falls on Patron”

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”

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”