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Resolving Industrial Equipment Claims


Industrial loss investigations can vary in scope, and quantum is often in the magnitude of millions of dollars. Often a comprehensive technical analysis of an industrial accident produces conclusions that can provide clarity to questions of liability and subrogation opportunities.

For example, consider a case in which Sintra Engineering was retained to investigate the apparent failure of an emergency standby hospital generator. The generator had been in operation for 27 years and was one of a pair of 940 HP units. The generator was taken out of service as a precautionary measure after oil samples indicated a mechanical problem. Further inspection revealed relatively large pieces of metallic debris in the crankcase. There was concern that the presence of foreign material could mean that the generator had been compromised and may be subject to failure. This necessitated a mechanical inspection and Sintra Engineering was retained to provide technical oversight.

The inspection began with a review of the generator’s maintenance history. The failed generator had been rebuilt twice in its lifetime; once due to a catastrophic failure of the adjacent generator and once due to a failed gearbox. A detailed inspection was then conducted, which revealed unusual internal wear on the engine bearings. This wear was consistent with the contamination of the oil system due to glycol leaking from the cooling system. Records of the regular oil sampling indicated that the coolant leak had been going on for some time, but this did not explain the large debris in the generator. Because the debris could not be explained by the wear on the bearings, the engine was carefully disassembled to look for the source. There was, however, no evidence of damaged engine components that could be matched to the debris in the crankcase.

After careful analysis, it was concluded that the internal damage to the generator was due to a combination of normal wear/tear and previous maintenance, but not due to any recent work performed on the generator. The debris was found to be a ’red herring’ and completely unrelated to the problems in the generator. The debris had been in the generator for an extended period of time and likely had been left in the crankcase from the previous rebuild. Independent technical oversight was required due to the specialized nature of this equipment and proved valuable in resolving the claim. |

In some cases technical insight is not only required to answer the question of why an accident occurred, but to ensure the right steps are taken to remediate following the loss. In one case, Sintra Engineering was retained to investigate an accident that occurred when a $2 million treater tank was significantly damaged. The treater tank was being prepared for transport to Fort McMurray. While the tank was being loaded onto a trailer it rolled off to the side. This unplanned roll caused damage in excess of $500,000. A detailed review of the incident revealed that one of the hydraulic valves had been left in the closed position causing the tank to roll.

The treater tank required repair and the insurer requested technical oversight to ensure that the unit was reasonably repaired respecting betterments. To that end, Sintra Engineering was also retained to supervise the reparation process to ensure that only repairs related to the incident were undertaken. To accomplish this, the condition of the treater was documented. Next, the metallurgical fittings and connections in the damaged sections were tested to ensure that the connections were not compromised and still in accordance with applicable standards. The entire repair was supervised by Sintra Engineering to ensure that repairs were designed and tested according to the pressure vessel codes using approved methods by the Alberta Boilers Safety Association. Technical oversight meant that the repair of the vessel was completed at a cost savings of over $100,000.

The complexity of both the insurance issues and the equipment involved in industrial accidents often requires specialized technical knowledge to assist in resolving the claim. Specialized forensic expertise can provide technical insight to identify cause and oversee repair such that claims can be resolved and normal business operations can resume as quickly as possible.
 


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