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Re: It's What You Don't Know That Hurts You...

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Bill,

I'd write a letter to your former employer immediately offering assistance
in the corrective action.  They'll probably refuse you help, but you will be
on record as having an interest in trying to mitigate the problem.  Then, if
their fix is not to your liking, you will be able to present your
perspective from a more legal position (LOL, I don't know anything about the
law, what am I saying?).

I'm not a bridge engineer, but it seems to me there must be options
available, short of replacing all the beams, that are more cost effective.
For instance, if the supports will allow, an additional beam per lane could
be fabricated, and the only loss to the owner is the delay.  Of course, the
deck steel must be redesigned . . . even if it is already fabricated, it can
probably still be used with some modification.

"H*ll, I guess I could lose my license over something like this. Not a good
thing."

I don't think so.  If you had a QA section in place, how can it be argued
that you were grossly negligent?

John P. Riley, SE
Riley Engineering
Blue Grass, Iowa
319-381-3949
jpriley485(--nospam--at)peoplepc.com

----- Original Message -----
From: Bill Polhemus <bpolhem(--nospam--at)swbell.net>
To: <seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org>
Sent: Tuesday, September 19, 2000 8:30 AM
Subject: It's What You Don't Know That Hurts You...


> I'm just have to gripe a little bit here.
>
> I was informed by a colleague familiar with the situation that a bridge
that had
> been designed under my supervision a few years back, which is being
constructed
> now, has had some problems in construction.
>
> At the time of its design, I had a group of ten engineers working under my
> supervision at a consulting firm. Two of the "engineers" were recent
graduates,
> but the rest either had or would soon have their P.E. licenses. We had
this
> bridge project, which consisted of six bridges of various types, spans and
> configurations, part of a freeway expansion project. I divided my group
into
> task forces with a P.E. as "project engineer" over each, and a senior P.E.
as
> "quality assurance" (i.e. he was to check all design calculations).
>
> As it turns out, one of the bridges under a particular "project engineer"
has
> had problems almost from the start, but the problems were rather minor in
scope.
> However, this time, the problem is great.
>
> It seems that in designing the bridge to use prestressed concrete
"U-Beams"
> (that is, they are a "U" shaped section), the design team had dithered
about how
> many beams to use in each two lane span. They apparently settled on three
beams
> per span. But unfortunately, somehow they had placed on the drawings, the
> prestressing information that was adequate if they had used FOUR beams. In
other
> words, the prestressed concrete beams were underreinforced for the
loading!
>
> Somehow, this got through not ONLY the design, but even the checking
phase. The
> calculations exist that show the original project engineer's and the
checker's
> initials. And of course, in the end I sealed the drawings.
>
> Now, it looks like the contractor is going to backcharge the client about
$4
> million for the prestressed beams that are now, in a word, useless. They
are in
> addition going to have to delay the project because they will have to have
new
> beams made.
>
> I have not been contacted officially on this, and don't know that I will,
but I
> am sure that this will be remembered by many in our area should the time
come
> that I am in the running to get some of this kind of design work.
>
> It is frustrating to me because of the way that work is done in consulting
firms
> like this, where you are SUPERVISING people who are doing the work, but
the
> scope of the projects makes it difficult to be involved in every aspect of
the
> design. I have found from time to time, in fact most recently just a few
months
> ago, that if I DO get involved in detailed checking of others' work that
is
> being done under my seal, I am very often disappointed.
>
> This, however, is the first time that a catastrophe of this magnitude has
> occurred, and I am sick about it! I pride myself on my diligence. We are
all
> human, and prone to make mistakes, but the nature of the negligence on
this
> project astounds me! I don't understand why others don't worry as I do
about
> their work.
>
> I am now in private practice, and thankful that from this time forth
nothing is
> going out under my name that I have not PERSONALLY been responsible for
doing. I
> will never again trust the "QA" portion of the work to anyone else when
> something is being done under my supervision. I only hope that this
particular
> chicken doesn't come home to roost directly over my head, but if it does I
am
> resigned to take responsibility for it. H*ll, I guess I could lose my
license
> over something like this. Not a good thing.
>
> Just a cautionary note to you all. Please be careful what is being done
under
> your supervision.
>
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