Pipe Fitting Expert Evaluates Fatal Workplace Accident

    Pipefitting Expert WitnessThis case involves a woman in Maryland who died as a result of the injuries she suffered while working as a compressed air piping systems inspector. On the date of the incident in question, the woman went to the defendant facility in her capacity as an agent of the inspection firm she worked for in order to conduct an inspection of the facility’s compressed air distribution system. The woman went to perform her inspection near a pressurized air tank that had an exhaust valve. At one point in her inspection, she was required to exhaust the air contained in the tank using the exhaust valve. When the air was exhausted, a large section of pipe became dislodged and struck the woman in the head, killing her instantly. It was alleged that the piping system was negligently installed by the defendant facility.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Are you familiar with proper piping installation?
    • 2. Do you have experience working as a pipefitter?

    Expert Witness Response E-029675

    I am familiar with the responsibilities of pipe fitters. My practice designs piping systems, including water piping, steam and pneumatic air system. Part of the issue is the thrust (and subsequent torque) induced by the exhausted air, which was clearly great enough to rotate the pipe in question. Another question is how tightly was the pipe with the elbow fastened onto the rest of the piping system. If the pipe was loosely installed, it would rotate easily. Professionally, I inspect the installation of piping systems as part of our normal scope of service, at the conclusion of the construction of a project. I I am a licensed professional (mechanical) engineer, with a Master’s degree from a leading technical university. As part of my study, I completed a graduate level fluid dynamics course. Based on the information above, fluid dynamics – the thrust and torque induced by the exhaust air stream – is a significant part of what went wrong here. It is possible that the connection was not made properly in the first place, or that the materials used were not rated for this use case.

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