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Construction Program Management and Inspection Guide
4. Inspection and Review Activities
The inspection and review process involves several steps: advance preparation, data gathering, conducting the physical review itself, evaluating and communicating the findings, writing and presenting the report, and distributing and archiving the report and related documentation.
The work required in preparing for a review will depend on the type of review that is to be performed. However, the inspecting engineer should have a review objective and a review plan for every inspection.
The first step in making any review should be to determine what is to be accomplished and why. Initially this will help to determine the type of review to be made. The review objective should be continually checked during the planning and guideline preparation phase, during the review, and prior to concluding it, to assure that the reviewer is still on track and that the objective is being accomplished. Articulating and checking the objective may be as simple as the inspecting engineer asking the questions, "What do I intend to accomplish by being here?" and "Am I accomplishing this in an effective and efficient manner?" A more complex review may require a more formal approach.
Review Plan and Guidelines
In addition to a defined objective, a review plan and review guidelines should be prepared. In the case of an IID or PR/PE, the plan and guidelines should be in written form and may be in some detail. The plan may vary from a very detailed one all the way to a simple mental image in the case of some routine project inspections. For routine project inspections, it is important for the reviewer to know ahead of time the activities underway on the project. This information will help the FHWA engineer prepare for the review.
The plan must be flexible to accommodate unanticipated conditions that are frequently encountered in the field, but the reviewer needs a starting point and direction, some checkpoints along the way, and some basis for making an ongoing evaluation to determine where adjustments should be made.
An FHWA short course on process reviews is available to provide further guidance as well as generic samples of reviews undertaken in various states. Refer to the material contained in the short course and other references on the FHWA Construction Management Web page (Appendix E, Technical References and Resources).
Preliminary Data Gathering
Prior to an on-site review, the inspecting engineer should contact the project engineer and get acquainted with activities underway and major issues on the project. To improve efficiency and effectiveness, reviewers may prepare themselves by reviewing the following items:
Prior to undertaking an IID or PR/PE on a particular construction phase or process, it is recommended that appropriate National Highway Institute (NHI) or industry training materials be reviewed as a technical reference. If possible, a refresher course should be considered.
Conducting the Review
Many items can be reviewed during a construction inspection, and the list of possible concerns about each item reviewed is also extensive. The amount of detail to be covered depends on the scope of the inspection and the time available. All data gathering and analysis should relate to the objectives of the inspection. The list in the sidebar "Items to Consider for Review" shows some of the main items to be considered in conducting the reviews (refer also to Appendix C and Appendix D).
It is not necessary that all items shown on the list be covered on every inspection. Checklists are useful tools to assist the reviewer, however, inspecting engineers are cautioned against using solely a "checklist" approach to conducting any review. The engineer should have sufficient knowledge of the review subject to be able to obtain review information through observation, general discussion, and file review in lieu of using a checklist on site. Checklists tend to be confining, and their use can result in critical areas being overlooked if care is not taken.