Drywall-Gypsum Wallboard Fatality

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Forensic Analysis of Leaning/Falling Gypsum Wallboard (Drywall) : 

Forensic Analysis of Leaning/Falling Gypsum Wallboard (Drywall) Richard A. Rice, PE Mutual Engineering, Inc. (MEI) Morrow, GA

Introduction:Gypsum wallboard (drywall) is a very common material used in residential and commercial construction. It is relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. However, if not properly stored on site prior to its installation, it can be a source of property damage, injury, and sometimes death. The author has over thirty years experience using drywall in residential and commercial construction. In that time, the author has known of, and has been personally involved in several drywall incidents. Fortunately, the injuries, if any, were inconsequential. The experienced construction personnel involved in those incidents were able to react to the known danger. It is when the layperson comes onto a construction site that leaning drywall can be dangerous.This incident involved the death of a 54 year old woman on a residential construction site in March 2000. The woman was the mother of the man purchasing the new residence. Both were at the incident site to inspect the construction progress. The woman was killed when approximately twenty-six sheets of 4’ x 12’ x 1/2" drywall fell from a leaning position and pinned her against the interior wood structural framing. The investigation involved an on-site inspection where the incident took place, load calculations, review of numerous depositions, and a load demonstrations using a model of the incident scene. : 

Introduction:Gypsum wallboard (drywall) is a very common material used in residential and commercial construction. It is relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. However, if not properly stored on site prior to its installation, it can be a source of property damage, injury, and sometimes death. The author has over thirty years experience using drywall in residential and commercial construction. In that time, the author has known of, and has been personally involved in several drywall incidents. Fortunately, the injuries, if any, were inconsequential. The experienced construction personnel involved in those incidents were able to react to the known danger. It is when the layperson comes onto a construction site that leaning drywall can be dangerous.This incident involved the death of a 54 year old woman on a residential construction site in March 2000. The woman was the mother of the man purchasing the new residence. Both were at the incident site to inspect the construction progress. The woman was killed when approximately twenty-six sheets of 4’ x 12’ x 1/2" drywall fell from a leaning position and pinned her against the interior wood structural framing. The investigation involved an on-site inspection where the incident took place, load calculations, review of numerous depositions, and a load demonstrations using a model of the incident scene.

Slide 3: 

Actions of the Contractor Allowing Laypersons onto the Construction Site Technical/Industry Codes and Standards Regarding Gypsum Wallboard Storage on the Jobsite Evidence/Activities Leading to the Death of the Woman Gypsum Wallboard Load Calculations Gypsum Wallboard Demonstrations in a Model of the Incident Scene Conclusions Forensic Analysis of Leaning/Falling Gypsum Wallboard

Slide 4: 

Forensic Analysis of Leaning/Falling Gypsum Wallboard From the “Homeowners Handbook”: “Watch for boards, cords, tools, nails or construction materials that might cause tripping, puncture wounds, or other injury.” The contractor establishes to all buyers that his construction site is dangerous. No other administrative attempt to protect buyers.

Slide 5: 

Forensic Analysis of Leaning/Falling Gypsum Wallboard From American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) C-36 Standard Specification for Gypsum Wallboard: “13.3 Gypsum wallboard shall be neatly stacked flat with care taken to prevent sagging or damaged edges, ends and surfaces.”

Slide 10: 

Incident Location

Slide 11: 

Questions to Answer What amount of force could the woman’s son reasonably apply that would cause the stack of leaning gypsum wallboard to start falling? What was the angle of the gypsum wallboard against the wood framing on the date of the incident that would facilitate the woman’s son moving the gypsum wallboard?

Slide 13: 

From deposition testimony of gypsum wallboard distributor: “We always place the first piece with a kickout of 4 to 6 inches.”

Slide 14: 

Model of Incident Scene

Slide 17: 

Conclusions: Due to market forces, leaning Gypsum wallboard is common practice. Gypsum wall distributors were incorrect in their assertion that the “kickout” distance of the first sheet was between 4 and 6 inches. Richard A. Rice, PE Mutual Engineering, Inc. (MEI) Morrow, GA