Domestic product failures: Case studies

Gagg, Colin (2005). Domestic product failures: Case studies. Engineering Failure Analysis, 12(5) pp. 784–807.



Every year in the UK more than 4000 people die in accidents in and around the home and nearly three million turn up at accident and emergency departments seeking treatment. Intrinsic in this number are many incidents of injury or death directly attributable to poor product design or manufacture of domestic products. In and around the home, commodities that dominate so much of every-day life are becoming more numerous and complex and could be mooted as an argument for such dire statistics. Moreover, society in general is becoming more litigious. These converging trends are responsible for an increasing significance of product liability. When property is damaged, personal injury sustained or loss of life occurs there is an understandable need to determine where any fault may lie. The forensic (or failure) engineer will glean relevant information through meticulous investigation and a reverse engineering process. Reconstructing the failure will uncover any inherent defect in product design, manufacturing, incorrect installation or maintenance. However, product failure can also be attributable to careless use or abuse by the individual, rather than to any specific defect or design shortcoming being inherent within a product. Ultimately the outcome of any investigation will be a sound finding and a conclusion that clearly describes what happened and why. To illustrate typical failure modes that are currently emerging in the home-based UK market, a range of domestic product failures are presented from the author’s forensic casebook.

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