Failure Investigations

Yenem Engineering Services

Mining Asset Structural Failure Investigation

Failure Investigations

Structures sometimes fail.

There’s rarely a case where a structure fails due to one cause. It’s most often a combination of

  • the load on the structure;
  • any defect in the structure (a material or design defect will weaken the structure, or elevate stresses and accelerate failure);
  • the properties of the materials that make up the structure (strength, shape, etc.);
  • time the load operates (the longer a structure operates, the more likely it is to fail (for example, due to fatigue));
  • the environment the structure operates in (e.g., temperature, corrosion, or irradiation, can – over time – weaken the material).

These are the engineering/technical causes of failure, but the reasons for the failure will be:

  • design errors;
  • faulty materials;
  • construction errors;
  • operating errors; or,
  • human/management/organizational errors.

The ‘engineering’ failures are actually caused by organizational failures (poor safety culture, organizational and management problems, lack of staff competence, etc.). These are the ‘root’ (underlying) causes.


The main objective of our failure investigation is to identify the root cause of the failure.

We’ll gather all the information you have on the structure, its history and the events leading up to the failure.

We’ll examine the structure and components, and prepare models to simulate the loading and predict the stresses on the structural components leading to failure.

Swiss cheese model of failure causation

Although we specialise in structural design, and understand mining and industrial structures, we put that aside to some extent when investigating failure. Design assumptions and code-defined performance of materials is less important when assessing the cause of failure. We examine the evidence to understand the actual loads on the structure at failure, the actual behaviour of the structure, and the actual capacity of the structure to resist these loads. This forensic examination of the evidence leads us to consider several failure hypotheses to determine the cause of failure. Generally, as defined by the Swiss cheese model, there’ll be a few reasons that led to the structure’s failure.

Our next goal is to help you understand what’s going on, with the help of clearly written emails and reports, to ensure lessons are learned from the failure and systems adopted that eliminate, or at least minimise, structural failures.

As experienced structural engineers, we can also make recommendations about your next steps to repair or replace your structures with mimimal impact on production.

In the event the investigation leads to litigation, we can provide expert witness testimony.

How it Works

Contact Yenem Engineering Services for an initial quote on a structural failure investigation.

You will speak directly with one of our engineers who will be able to provide a quote based around your needs and information and let you know if/when a site visit can be arranged.

You can expect detailed reports resulting from a detailed investigation.

There are very few types of structures we have not assessed for our mining industry clients. Contact us today to find out more.