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Interplay of Structural & Biomechanical Disciplines

Construction Fall

Are the disciplines of Structural and Biomechanical engineering at opposite ends of the forensic engineering spectrum? Structural and Biomechanical engineering appear to be two completely different fields; but as you will see, CED discovered they go hand-in-hand.

The dictionary’s definition of Structural Engineering is “a field of engineering dealing with the analysis and design of structures that support or resist loads.”  According to the same dictionary, “Biomechanical Engineering studies the structure and function of biological systems such as humans, animals, plants, organs, and cells, and applies principles of mechanical engineering to these systems.”

However different they appear, these two disciplines can be combined when looking at the following case scenarios:

1. Allegedly an individual falls after stepping on an object with structural properties such as an equipment box left on a stairway. The structure of the stairway and the structural integrity of the equipment box are investigated as well as biomechanical issues such as kinematics of the person’s motion, position of the body on impact and the alleged injuries sustained during the accident.

2. A driver is injured in a car accident. The magnitude of the injuries is noted in medical records as are the injury locations. Structural connections of the seat to the car's frame fail. Did a faulty mechanical connection contribute to the injury of the driver, or did the seat fail due to the force of the injured person against it? The trajectory of the vehicle and the driver during the accident, the intensity and location of the injury sites and the forces due to changes in trajectory and velocity all contribute to determining the cause of the seat failure.

3. A person jumps or falls from a platform to a roof and lands on a hatchway opening. The hatchway fails and causes the person to fall through the opening. Was the hatchway opening inadequate for the anticipated loads, or did the worker act improperly?  Was the fall intentional or an accident?

4. Sometimes there may be no relationship between biomechanical and structural issues, as when someone falls down the stairs, and council wants to verify both that a fall could not have taken place the way it was described, and that the staircase fallen upon was structurally sound.  Having an engineer with both structural and biomechanical degrees allows the client to use only one engineer for the case rather than two.

Each scenario opens the door for both structural and biomechanical expertise allowing you to understand how these two disciplines complement each other in the forensic science industry.

CED employs an engineer with degrees in both structural and biomechanical disciplines who is ready to assist with these types of cases.  Also CED employs multiple engineers who can look at either the structural aspect of a case or evaluate the slip/trip and fall accidents separately.  Call 800.780.4221 for CED’s assistance in finding the right engineering expert for your case.

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