Destructive Testing

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: September 3, 2019

What Does Destructive Testing Mean?

Destructive testing (DT) is a material testing method in which the material is subjected to forces that are strong enough to destroy or deform it. The point of destructive testing is to identify the point at which these forces will cause the material to fail, with the aim of specifying the material’s mechanical properties, such as its strength, durability, and flexibility.

This method is most frequently used for testing mass-produced items, since the cost of destroying a limited number of abundant items is economically negligible.

Automobile crash testing is a well-known form of destructive testing.

Safeopedia Explains Destructive Testing

In occupational safety, destructive testing is used to verify the protective capabilities of various types of machinery and personal protective equipment by subjecting them to physical or chemical stressors to determine their point of failure.

Materials used in fall protection equipment, for instance, will be subject to heavy-duty weight testing, intense force, and abrasion to ensure it can withstand the pressures of a worker falling from height without ripping, tearing, or snapping.

Destructive vs. Non-Destructive Testing

Destructive testing is best understood by comparing it to non-destructive testing (NDT).

Non-destructive testing makes use of various electromagnetic, imaging, and measurement techniques to assess the properties of an item or its components without causing damage to them. It provides insights into the tested sample’s materials properties and can identify defects, discontinuities, and signs of wear. NDT is preferable for applications where the items being tested will have to be used again, such as pipeline segments, welding products, and castings.

Destructive testing is favored when assessing safety equipment, since it produces more complete and reliable results than non-destructive testing methods.

Examples of Destructive Testing for PPE

  • Dropping sandbags of known mass on safety glass to test how much impact force it can withstand
  • Subjecting respirators to various stressors to test its ability to function under extremely high temperatures and other demanding conditions
  • Exposing materials to open flames to determine their their fire rating
  • Determining the arc rating of safety gloves and other items by exposing them to incident energy meant to simulate electrical arcs of various strengths

Other Safety Applications for Destructive Testing

Destructive testing can be used for hazard identification and safety assurance. ASTM standards for comprehensive building asbestos surveys, for instance, often require the use of destructive testing as part of project design and pre-construction surveys in order to detect the presence of asbestos.

A number of weld-strength testing standards (such as ISO 4136, which measures transverse tensile) utilize destructive testing as well. Destructive weld tests ensure that the weld will not fail dangerously if the structure is used within expected limits.

Given the use of intense force, high impact, corrosive chemicals, open flames, and other potential dangers, anyone performing destructive testing must wear appropriate PPE for the hazards involved, such as safety glasses, flame-resistant clothing, and chemical-resistant gloves. They must also receive safety training specific to DT methods and the handling of DT equipment.


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