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Engineers develop improved way to identify, measure bridge damage

A group of civil engineers at Kansas State University has developed an improved method for detecting and measuring the amount of damage a bridge has suffered, which could keep bridges safer and prevent collapses.

Hayder Rasheed, associate professor of civil engineering, and Yacoub Najjar, professor of civil engineering at the university are working together to improve detection and assess damage in concrete bridges. The new system involves a bridge health index, which provides a more accurate measurement of the amount of damage a bridge has sustained. The index can also extend beyond bridges and apply to other structures, including dams, buildings, gas pipelines, and airplanes.

Rasheed said current bridge inspection methods are subjective. "It varies from inspector to inspector," Rasheed said. "They measure the cracks in the bridge, but they have no objective way to calculate how much it is damaged. Because the inspectors decide which bridges are repaired first, it's very important to make the process objective across the board."

The new bridge health index allows information to be input into a network that will generate a health index. A new bridge will have an index of 100 and the index number will go down based on bridge age and damage.

Bridge construction and repair can expose workers to occupational hazards, including falls, water and traffic hazards, crane accidents, and being struck by vehicles and equipment. Protect workers by providing fall protection, hard hats, work gloves, and traffic safety vests