All this week I’ve been observing destructive testing at a high rise. At a building across the street, workers are taking down scaffolding from a 20+ story condo project after repairs were made to the building’s exterior.

More than a few times over the past several days my colleagues and I have observed workers not tied off to proper fall protection performing extreme acrobatic feats while carrying fairly large and unwieldy sections of scaffolding using both hands.

Watching these hard working folks putting their life on the line with every step has been eye-opening  and terrifying, while at the same time providing me a real sense of gratitude that my job isn’t nearly as risky.

And then I saw this: 

(Via Construction Junkie)

Fortunately, nobody was injured in this wild adventure. During construction of a facility, the concrete crew lost control of a gas-powered concrete polisher, and neighbors looking on captured the fairly dangerous but equally hilarious scene on video.

Normally, the polisher’s handlebars are held by a worker who sort of floats the spinning polisher at the bottom of the machine over the freshly-poured surface of the concrete to create a smooth texture. In this case, the polishing disc is stationary, but the rest of the machine is spinning around. Sort of like the tail wagging the dog.

It is more difficult to describe the action than just show it. Without further ado, I present the adventure of the rogue concrete polisher:

(Via BoingBoing)

Back in June of 2015, a relatively unknown company by the name of Daqri introduced an augmented reality-enabled hard hat that they dubbed the Smart Helmet.

While there clearly is not yet massive adoption among the trades for a more than $1,000 hard hat, that doesn’t mean Daqri has ceased innovation. In fact, as Construction Junkie reports, the company unveiled its next wearable device purpose-built for the architecture, engineering and construction industry: Smart Glasses. (Not to be confused with Google Glass, of course…)

Here is a video showcasing Daqri’s products at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show:

And here is a case study produced by Autodesk and Mortensen showcasing the Smart Helmet:

Learn more about the entire product line at Daqri’s website.

The upside to using modern electronic/smart door security systems in hotels across the globe is that it is really easy to check guests in and out, replace lost keys, and prevent former guests from reusing their key to gain unauthorized access.

The downside is that the smarter these security systems become, the more susceptible they become to hacking. (more…)

Finally, after 6-1/2 years, the utility at fault for the horrific San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed 8 people, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged 108 homes in total, will finally face some consequences related to criminal charges filed against the utility.

This evolving saga has been covered multiple times over the years by Here is a quick timeline of what has happened to date: (more…)

Safety First is the mantra we’ve been hearing for decades in the industry, and while construction has become much safer for workers, we clearly still have a long ways to go.

Fortune’s Anne Vandermey has more:

First, the good news in American workplaces: Four decades ago, 14,000 U.S. workers were killed on the job each year. Now, that number is closer to 5,000…

But not every industry is enjoying a decline in the number of accidents. As the construction industry climbs back toward its pre-recession peak, accidents are rising with it. There were 937 fatal work injuries in private construction in 2015—the highest number since 2008.

Some incredibly sad news from New York Daily News:

A dizzy spell may have caused the death of a New Jersey architect who fell off a midtown skyscraper, officials said Friday.

Bruno Travalja, 52, of Ridgewood, N.J., was wearing a safety harness but it wasn’t tied to anything when he plummeted from a deck on the 47th floor of the skyscraper at 153 W. 53rd St. near 7th Ave. Thursday afternoon, officials said.

He was taking measurements when he plummeted, landing on a second floor ledge at the rear of the building, police said.

Around dinner-time on September 9, 2010, a massive natural gas pipeline explosion occurred in a neighborhood in San Bruno, CA. Fire quickly spread, overwhelming the local fire department, requiring reinforcements from nearby towns to fight the eight alarm fire. By the time the fire was under control, 108 homes were damaged, and 38 homes were completely destroyed. Unfortunately, eight people lost their lives. Yesterday, criminal charges were filed against PG&E for their role in the disaster.

Previously, we reported on the possibility of defective and/or improper materials. Later, we reported that the NTSB found responsibility for the explosion was due to bad management on the part of PG&E, the utility responsible for maintaining the pipeline.

From Bad to Worse

On April 1, 2014, a federal grand jury indicted the utility on twelve counts of criminal violation (PDF) of 49 U.S.C. § 60123. According to SFGate:

The indictment says the utility repeatedly violated the federal Pipeline Safety Act, which mandates that operators maintain accurate records about their gas pipes, identify risks to lines and inspect or test when pipe pressures exceed the legal maximum.

Rather than follow the law, PG&E “knowingly relied on erroneous and incomplete information” in avoiding the type of inspections that could have exposed a badly manufactured seam weld on the gas transmission line and saved San Bruno from disaster, the indictment says.

In the 54 years that the weld lurked in the ground beneath the city, PG&E never conducted an inspection that could have detected it. In part, that was because it lost records that showed the most basic characteristics of the pipe, including whether it had seams.

While criminal charges were indeed filed, it is doubtful that any person will actually be incarcerated as a result. Instead, the utility is facing a maximum of $6-million in fines and “court-ordered oversight.” To put this fine into perspective, PG&E responded to the charges stating it has “committed to spending $2.7 billion of its shareholders’ money on upgrading its natural gas network.”

However, the fines associated with the criminal charges are not the only financial risks facing PG&E:

After the San Bruno disaster, the company conceded that it had no documentation for long segments of pipeline in Northern and Central California. The record-keeping problems are at the center of a state case in which the Public Utilities Commission is considering fines of as much as $2.5 billion against the company.

Clearly, this story is not yet over.

Source: SFGate

Image of the San Bruno pipeline fire at night courtesy Wikipedia

A giant sinkhole swallowed two buildings whole – and it was caught on video:

Luckily, reports indicate that nobody was harmed. The collapse took place on Monday in Guangzhou, China as construction workers were digging an underground railway tunnel. Narrowly escaping disaster, the workers sounded an alarm and nearly 300 people were successfully evacuated from the surrounding area.

Via Sydney Morning Herald and Associated Press

The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded its investigation of the explosion of a natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, CA last year that left eight people dead. Their findings: this was “an organizational accident.” Matthew Wald covered the story for the New York Times.

According to the report, PG&E failed to properly manage the pipeline for 54 years. During the original installation of the pipe, crucial welds were missed. Not just a few welds, but half of the welds were missing. The NTSB stated that the completed pipeline was not properly inspected for safety. While the original construction defects certainly contributed to the disaster, the report also found that ongoing management and procedures were certainly contributing factors:

On the day of the accident, Sept. 9, 2010, the fatal sequence began when workers at a computerized control center in Milpitas, Calif., were replacing a power system, but their work plan was poorly drawn and resulted in sensors erroneously reporting low pressure. That led to the automatic opening of valves, raising the pressure above what was intended. Even though the pressure did not reach the maximum the pipeline was supposed to hold, it failed because workers had skipped one set of welds when they installed the pipe in 1956, investigators said. The lack of welds should have been obvious in a visual inspection, they said…

Ms. Hersman contrasted the gas utility’s poor performance in the accident with television advertisements she saw while in California to visit the explosion site. In those ads, the company said it was installing “smart meters” at customers’ homes that could tell instantly how much gas and electricity was being used, and communicate that information to the customers. But in a major transmission line, she said, “for a good half an hour or an hour, they can’t even isolate where the rupture occurred.” And months after the disaster, the company was still failing to provide timely information about problems, she said.

However, PG&E is not the only entity which bears responsibility for the tragic accident. The NTSB was extremely critical of the California Public Utilities Commission and the US Department of Transportation. According to the findings, these public entities failed in their role to provide oversight by exempting older pipelines from testing that would have easily identified the defects prior to rupture. Earlier this week, the Department of Transportation announced efforts to revise safety rules for pipelines.

The accident occurred on September 9, 2010 and was responsible for the destruction of 50 homes.