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    How forensic engineering can determine cause of equipment failure

    Soto Group Pty Ltd

    Forensic engineering company Soto Consulting has expanded its resources to provide private and public companies with a specialised service that can determine the cause of equipment failure in industrial environments.

    Soto Consulting serves as a forensic specialist for WorkCover authorities and police investigators to identify precise causes of equipment failure, system malfunctions or explosion and fire events.

    Comparing the process to investigative policing, but from an engineering perspective, Managing Director Mr Frank Soto explains that Soto Consulting’s forensic engineering skills help insurance companies, investigative agencies and regulatory authorities determine the exact cause of failure that resulted in serious injury or death, or even reveal potential problems ahead of operation to ensure dangers and risk are identified and avoided.

    Defined as post- or pre-failure analysis often for litigation support, forensic engineering aims to accurately identify the sequence of events leading to ultimate failure or injury to personnel or the public.

    Soto Consulting offers in-house expertise and uses virtual analysis tools to conduct 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. The company’s engineers are brought in as technical experts to review and model potential causes of failure in the plant, equipment and systems.

    Apart from carrying out comprehensive checks to analyse if equipment was being used and maintained as indicated, Soto Consulting’s experts also determine if design changes made to machinery or equipment corresponded to proprietary design control methods, and then document whether the modified equipment performed in a safe manner protecting the public and operator from risk.

    Regardless of the principal investigating body, Soto Consulting’s primary task to identify the root cause of an incident can often be extremely challenging because they have to deal with a molten mass, collapsed structure or a serious injury or incident, requiring the SOTO forensic team to find the one event in a series that resulted in the critical failure or injury.

    Soto Consulting engineers can also be called in as an expert witness for insurance companies or litigants, and an arbitrary or judicial outcome may strongly evolve around findings from forensic engineering.

    According to Mr Soto, a successful outcome depends on the ability to thoroughly and methodically examine the evidence and conduct an engineering analysis using proven analytical methods founded on engineering principles and advanced analysis simulations. A major objective of the exercise is to determine if owners and operators deviated in any way from OEM operating procedures and maintenance requirements.

    Mr Soto adds that forensic engineering is a skill requiring a lot of disciplined training and many years of experience in working with various investigative authorities and technical specialists. Soto has on its rolls, several Principal and Senior Consultants who are highly experienced in all facets of complex investigations.

    Detailed analytical reports are provided in support of matters in litigation, with a typical report comprising of a fully referenced technical analysis, simulation, diagrams, images and other supporting materials.

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