Lessons Learned from a Forensic Engineering Investigation of a Scaffold Support Failure





product liability, Forensic Engineering Method, scaffold, failure analysis, finite element analysis, empirical stress analysis, load testing


During use, a scaffold support allegedly failed, causing injuries to the user when he fell. The plaintiff’s expert identified a defective weld as the cause of failure and opined that the product was improperly designed. This paper examines methods used to evaluate the circumstances of and claims made regarding the incident. A combination of engineering methodologies, including metallurgical evaluation, stress analysis, and physical testing, was used to examine the plaintiff’s claims of deficiencies in the design and fabrication of the product. The engineering methodologies refute claims made about the structural capacity of the product by the plaintiff’s expert and the fundamental cause of failure. This paper examines themes related to the presence of apparent defects/failure and the necessity of verifying postulated hypotheses. It also examines the efficacy of analysis and testing as part of implementation of the “forensic engineering method” in verifying or rejecting hypotheses en route to offering expert opinions in forensic engineering investigations.


Safety Requirements for Scaffolding — American National Standard for Construction and Demolition Operations. ANSI/ASSE Standard A10.8, 2001.

Structural Welding Code — Aluminum. AWS Standard D1.2, 2014.

L. Liptai and L. Cecil, “Forensic Engineering the Scientific Method,” Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers, vol. XXVI, no. 1, pp. 147-155, June 2009.

J. F. Thorpe and W. H. Middendorf, What Every Engineer Should Know About Product Liability, New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc, 1979.




How to Cite

Schwartzberg, John. 2021. “Lessons Learned from a Forensic Engineering Investigation of a Scaffold Support Failure”. Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers 38 (1). https://doi.org/10.51501/jotnafe.v38i1.89.