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Australian firm expands forensic engineering platform

A leader in forensic engineering has expanded resources to provide private and public companies with a specialised service that can determine causes of machine and system malfunctions – often in circumstances carrying serious consequences.

Soto Consulting steps in when government authorities and police investigators need a forensic specialist to identify precise causes of equipment failure, system or structure collapse and other incidents such as explosion or fire.
“It is very much along the lines of how investigative policing is carried out but in an engineering perspective to determine the cause of failure that resulted in serious injury death, or exposing potential problems ahead of operation to ensure dangers and risk are identified,” said Managing Director, Mr Frank Soto.

Forensic Engineering can be defined as post- or pre-failure analysis often for litigation support. The goal is to accurately identify the sequence of events leading to ultimate failure or injury to personnel or the public.
Traditionally, government departments, agencies or university professors perform this role, often appearing in court to deliver their independent findings.

Although engineers are not regarded for this type of service, Mr Soto sees it as an augmentation to the profession; as root causes on-site can be readily examined and identified as methods of failure.

“We have in-house expertise and virtual analysis tools to do probability balances, dimensional checks or detailed computerised analysis to determine if the equipment in question was being used in a way not intended by the original designer (for example, a mis-match of equipment resulting in a casualty),” said Mr Soto.

“We are brought in as technical experts to review and model potential causes of failure in the plant, equipment and systems.

“Comprehensive checks are made to analyse if equipment was being used and maintained as indicated.

“We determine if design changes made to machinery or equipment corresponds to proprietary design control methods then document whether modified equipment preformed in a safe manner protecting the public and operator from risk.
Whether the principal investigating body is a government workplace safety division, insurance company or police, the task for Soto Consulting to identify the root cause of an incident is often extremely challenging.

Often, what is left is a molten mass, collapsed structure or a serious injury or incident that will require the SOTO forensic team to find the one event in a series that resulted in the critical failure or injury.

“The other side of forensic engineering can see any of our engineers be called in as an expert witness for insurance companies or litigants,” said Mr Soto.
“In this scenario, an arbitrary or judicial outcome may strongly evolve around findings from forensic engineering.

“Key to a successful outcome is to look through all the evidence and conduct an engineering analysis using proven analytical methods founded on engineering principles and advanced analysis simulations.

“Forensic engineering is highly methodical; the aim is to determine if owners and operators deviated in any way from original equipment manufacturer (OEM) operating procedures and maintenance requirements.

“Forensic engineering is a skill requiring a lot of disciplined training and many years of experience in working with other investigative authorities and technical specialists, and we have that.”

With Principal and Senior Consultants that are highly experienced in all facets of complex investigations. SOTO prepares detailed analytical reports in support of matters in litigation.

A fully referenced technical forensic report, including analysis, simulation, diagrams images and other supporting materials is provided.

Litigation support includes continued technical liaison support, formulation of answers to interrogatories and assistance in the lead-up to a hearing.

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