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Chantell J. Cornett: Decoding the Complexities of Construction Forensics

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What does it take to unravel the complexities of construction forensics? Chantell J. Cornett, a seasoned expert and principal partner at Ward Cornett & Associates, provides the answer.

Creating a Culture of Safety

Cornett, with over two decades of experience in construction forensics, underscores the importance of orientation, quantification, and timing in photographs, witness statements, and incident reports. These elements, she explains, are crucial in creating a comprehensive and accurate record of events.

She further emphasizes the need for a “culture of safety” within the construction industry. This culture, she argues, is not only essential for the welfare of workers but also plays a pivotal role in legal proceedings.

The Power of Documentation

The mantra “If it’s not written, it never happened. If it is written, it doesn’t matter what happened,” she said, underscores the power of documentation in shaping the narrative of an incident.

Drawing on her extensive experience, Cornett took the audience on a journey through case studies, illustrating how seemingly negligible details can significantly impact the outcome of a case. She highlighted how adherence to minimum safety standards often leads to uncertainty, requiring forensic experts to unravel the truth.

A Diverse Skill Set

Cornett’s expertise is not limited to construction-related disputes. She also advises on premises-liability exposure and compliance with OSHA and industry safety standards. Her diverse skill set includes property condition assessments, forensic cost accounting, and contract negotiation, among others.

Currently pursuing a Masters in Construction and Structural Engineering at Arizona State University, Cornett is also preparing for her Professional Engineering fundamental exams. Her academic pursuits extend beyond her own education; she serves as adjunct faculty at both the Arizona State University Department of Engineering and the University of Washington, Seattle.

In addition to her academic and professional achievements, Cornett holds several certifications and licenses, including an Arizona KB-2 Dual General Contractor license and safety certifications with both the National Safety Council and OSHA. She is also a certified fire and explosion investigator, cost estimator, and concrete plant and fleet inspector.

Cornett’s commitment to her field is evident in her active participation in various boards, including the Arizona Board of Technical Registration, the Arizona State University Engineering Department Academic Integrity Board, and the ASTM Committee on Forensic Engineering Standards.

Despite her busy schedule, Cornett regularly presents at construction and engineering conferences across the United States. When not teaching or speaking, she provides expert witness and forensic consulting services.

Beyond the Professional Life

Chantell J. Cornett’s insights into incident investigation and documentation serve as a valuable resource for anyone in the construction industry. Her dedication to safety, meticulous attention to detail, and commitment to education make her a leading voice in the field of construction forensics. As she continues to share her expertise, the industry will undoubtedly benefit from her knowledge and experience.

Beyond her professional life, Cornett is an avid traveler, always with a cribbage board in hand. She enjoys outdoor activities such as horse riding, surfing, triathlons, boxing, golfing, fishing, skiing, camping, and is a fervent supporter of her alma mater’s football team. Her journey, from her early days in the legal field to her current role as a construction forensic expert, is a testament to her dedication and passion for her field. Her story serves as an inspiration for those aspiring to make a mark in the construction industry.

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