Unchartered territory: The case for a career in forensic engineering

In 2009 Ken Roberts left his role as weapon engineer in the Royal Navy to cycle around the world for two years. After fulfilling this ambition he returned to his area of expertise, but this time as a forensic engineer with an engineering and scientific consultancy. Ken stumbled across the job by chance but is particularly keen to highlight this little known-sector, which is not only rewarding, but particularly suited to Service leavers with a technical background.

What is forensic engineering?

Forensic engineering is all about solving problems. Applying engineering and scientific knowledge and judgement to work out how or why things have gone wrong.

Who do you work for?

I work for a small but highly respected consultancy of engineers and scientists. My clients are typically insurance companies, loss adjusters, lawyers or equipment manufacturers.

What exactly do you provide for your clients?

I provide my clients with a technical opinion as to the cause of the incident, initially as a written report but with the potential to culminate in oral evidence in Civil Court as an expert witness.

What might a typical case involve?

As a Chartered Electrical Engineer I frequently investigate fires thought to have been caused by an electrical fault. My aim is to work out where the fire started and what caused it. This might involve visiting the premises – anything from a business unit to a private residence – together with interviewing witnesses, liaising with the local Fire and Rescue Service, and examining the remnants of electrical appliances to look for evidence of faults that could have led to the fire.

Are there many similarities between your new profession and your Service career?

Actually quite a lot, which makes it all the more surprising that I’ve yet to find anyone else in this field with a career Service background. Similarities include the ability to apply technical and scientific knowledge to practical (and often confused) situations, to think both laterally and objectively, to use initiative, to engage with a great diversity of people, and to be able to communicate your findings with clarity, both in written form and orally.

What aspect of Forensic Engineering appeals the most?

The satisfaction of solving the case, working out what went wrong.

Amongst Service leavers, who do you think Forensic Engineering would most appeal to?

Those in the engineering branches of the three Services, ideally having attained Chartered Engineer status.

How did you get into it?

Like so many in this relatively little known but well-recompensed and ever-expanding field, by chance. Hence my desire to raise awareness of the field amongst Service leavers.

If you would like to find about more about this sector, please contact Charlotte Browne (c.browne@officersassociation.org.uk) in the first instance, who will field queries on to Ken.