Developing Forensic Investigation Standards to Effectively Deal with Structural Failures
11 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 8 Jul 2019
Date Written: February 22, 2019
The human society has witnessed failures of many landmark structures right from that of tower of Babel to the collapse of Hotel Hyatt Regency walkway, U.S.A. Despite advancement of technology and improvements in the field of construction, failures are inevitable even today. Till recently, the failure of Kota Chambal Bridge created lot of panic to look for integrity and investigation of the conditions of all bridges by railways. All such failures raise curiosity of technologist as to why it happened. Man tries to obtain an answer and ultimately decide on liability. This arena where construction and law meet to investigate the cause of failure as well as determine liability is called forensic engineering.
Literature suggests that forensic engineering is a quite widespread practice in the U.S.A whereas in India, not only there is lack of enough standards for investigation but also lesser practice of the same. Most often, failures in India are either police or insurance matters. It is therefore the object of this study to develop forensic investigation standards based on the time at which the failure occurs during building life cycle and how to minimize the socio-economic losses occurring consequentially. A questionnaire was circulated among more than 140 professionals in reputed firms in the construction and legal industry to gather information on how they/their organisation deal with failures, during what phase they occur, whether there are any legal implications and to what extent need is felt for a systematic approach to investigations of failures. Out of these 140 professionals, as many as 41 have responded to the query and contribute very important information. The questionnaire reveals that the industry feels there is a dire need for adopting forensic engineering and the only standards they rely on is non-destructive tests. A number of cases of failures in India and in U.S.A., which have occurred during construction and service period stages of life cycle of structure, were studied for their process, reports and laws of investigations. They have been evaluated for the socio-economic losses that occurred and the way how legal implications were dealt with by the parties or investigators involved.
It is revealed so far that more often than not, an innocent professional is convicted without first investigating scientifically the cause. The game of blame shifting gets momentum. It is also found that depending on when the failure occurs during the building life cycle, the investigation process needs to be adapted accordingly. Finally, certain recommendations will be proposed for each phase, based on the differences between the process of investigation adopted in U.S.A and India.
Keywords: Forensic Investigation, Forensic Engineering, Failure Literacy, Legal Implications, Liability, Socio-Economic Losses, Investigation Process, Techno-Legal Expert, Forensic Investigators
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