Pipefitting Expert Witness Opines on Fatal Workplace Accident

Pipefitting Expert WitnessThis case involves a man who died as a result of injuries suffered while working as an HVAC contractor on a commercial construction project. His company was hired to do HVAC work on the project. At the time of the accident, he was working near a pressurized steam pipe that had an exhaust valve located near the area where the Plaintiff was working. Part of his assignment included work that involved operating the exhaust valve. The exhaust pipe had a bend and, when he exhausted the pipe, the pressure released caused the to rotate pipe counter clockwise and hit him in the head. He suffered a severe brain injury and died shortly after.

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

Expert-ID: E-029675

I am familiar with the responsibilities of pipe fitters. My practice designs piping systems, including water piping, steam and pneumatic air systems. Part of the issue is the thrust (and subsequent torque) induced by the exhausted steam which as 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 – depending on how well the evidence has been preserved, this question may be hard to answer. 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 MIT. As part of my study at MIT, 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 the investigation. The system should not have allowed such a violent expulsion of gas under any circumstances.

Expert Witness Response E-029676

I hold both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in mechanical engineering, and have over 35 years of experience in the design and construction of high pressure piping systems for industrial applications, including high pressure air piping of the type at issue in this matter. My experience also includes failure analysis and forensic engineering related to piping systems and components. I am confident that I can speak to the design, installation and/or maintenance of the original piping. High pressure piping of this type is governed by ANSI/ASME B31.3 Process Piping Code.


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