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Forensics would reveal why silo collapsed

The collapse in recent days at Port Adelaide of a large silo containing cement powder is exactly the kind of industrial incident that needs forensic engineering, according to a specialist in this field.

Apart from determining the most probable cause of failure, it will deliver the information quickly and effectively so the owner/operator, constructor and various authorities can move swiftly towards resolution, says Mr Frank Soto of SOTO Consulting Engineers.

“Thankfully nobody was injured in this incident, but we know for sure the constructors and new owners of the plant would want to know why this happened,” said Mr Soto.

“It is exactly this type of situation when government authorities and investigators need a forensic specialist to identify precise causes of equipment failure, system or structure collapse and other incidents such as explosion or fire.”

Forensic Engineering can be defined as post or pre-failure analysis often for investigative resolution in order to identify system failures in design, manufacture or construction. The goal is to accurately identify the sequence of events leading to ultimate failure or catastrophic event.

“We have in-house expertise and digital engineering virtual analysis tools to do detailed computerised analysis to determine if the equipment in question was being used in a way not intended by the original designer or whether the designer had considered the full breadth of loading conditions,” 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 commissioned and operated as indicated or whether there was a failure in the design & construct review processes.”

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