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Construction Program Management and Inspection Guide

4. Inspection and Review Activities (continued)

Collecting and Evaluating Data

Field engineers should select methods for keeping notes that suit themselves, their workload, and the record-keeping procedures of their division office. Observations should be recorded while on the project or immediately following the inspection. Laptop computers or personal digital assistants can be of assistance in record keeping and project tracking.

Both photographs and sketches are recommended, as they can be of considerable value in depicting details, providing documentation, and reducing the report writing effort. Digital cameras are recommended.

Steps in Evaluation

1. Record Facts

Facts are irrefutable: what is seen, what is recorded, what test results demonstrate, what actions are taken.

2. Make Observations

Observations may be factual or they may only represent the project as the inspecting engineer sees it. If an observation can be disputed, it should be supported. FHWA engineers may request that additional inspections, measurements, or tests be performed to verify opinions or satisfy concerns (see 23 CFR Subsections 1.5 and 1.36). This privilege should not be abused, but likewise it should not be overlooked.

3. Seek Opinions

When faced with decisions on controversial or highly technical topics, the STA project engineer and the FHWA engineer should take steps to assure that the appropriate technical and authoritative sources are consulted. Documentation of sources used provides assurance that the most appropriate decisions are being made and that the work is being adequately supervised.

4. Offer Advice Where Appropriate

The FHWA engineer is expected to have some degree of technical expertise and competence as well as access to subject area specialists. FHWA engineers should provide assistance or reassurance as appropriate but always with the understanding that they are not directing the operation. Advice or opinions offered should always be recorded in the inspection report. If the advice concerns the limit of Federal participation, this must be clearly understood.

5. Draw Conclusions

Based on all the available information, the inspecting engineer should draw conclusions on the acceptability of operations, actions taken, the finished product, and the quality of supervision. These conclusions serve as a basis for acceptance of the project and should serve to support the division's construction program risk assessment.

6. Make Decisions and Inform Affected Parties

If acceptance decisions must be made as a result of conclusions drawn, the inspection report should record these conclusions and all affected parties should be informed in a timely manner. Notification can be done in the inspection report or in other formal correspondence, as appropriate.

Inspection reports should have substance rather than just verbose wording. It is important not to lose track of what is observation, hearsay, fact, or opinion when it comes time to write the report. Reports should be as specific as possible, and ambiguity should be avoided. Hearsay should never be documented unless upon further review facts are found to support the hearsay. By following the six steps outlined in the sidebar "Steps in Evaluation", engineers can produce reviews that effectively meet their objectives. The sidebar highlights important precautions for inspection reports.

Inspectors may also refer to Appendix F, Examples of Reporting Practices, which critiques the appropriateness and significance of different reporting practices. The examples shown are extracts from actual reports and commentary. It will be helpful to review the extracts and comments, which can be applied to other reporting items as well.

Writing the Report

Forms

Inspections. Two FHWA forms are suggested for use in filing inspection reports for all Federal-aid projects:

  • Form FHWA 1446 A (or similar) "Construction Inspection Report" (Appendix G, Project Implementation and Reporting Forms), may be used to report all construction inspections, including final inspections.
  • Form FHWA 1446 B (or similar) "Final Acceptance Report" (Appendix G), may be used to report final acceptance, or the division office may include an alternative method of documenting final acceptance in its construction management program. (Note: The final acceptance report is not required, although some division offices use it to assist in project closeout and to support payment of final voucher.)

Other Reviews. The forms to be used for process reviews and emphasis area reviews where summary reports are to be prepared have not been prescribed. It is suggested that Form FHWA 1446 A be used for the individual project reports on which the summary will be based. A narrative report form is typically used for the summary with graphics or tabular displays as appropriate to demonstrate the importance or occurrence of findings.

Report Identification

Form FHWA 1446 A contains several identification boxes at the top of the page. These identify the inspection as initial, intermediate, or final and as a project inspection or an IID. Other identifiers in the heading can be helpful and are recommended. Also indicate if the review is project specific or part of a statewide effort.

Content

Inspection reports are a source document for FHWA's project oversight and involvement. They document project observations, findings, and recommendations; provide program and project information to FHWA management and other program managers; and transmit this information to various levels of STA management. The content of inspection reports should be factual and in line with the division office policy on report content. This will help to promote a degree of uniformity throughout the State. In determining the report content it is important to consider how the report may be used and by whom. In addition, the "Precautions" in the sidebar should be followed.

Outline

Using an outline for inspection reports can help ensure that all appropriate information is recorded and organized. The outline format is flexible, and the degree of standardization should be at the option of each division. All items may not be addressed in each report, but there are merits in following a routine sequence as outlined in the following sections.

Precautions

Some words of caution are in order to facilitate report-writing efforts:

  1. Document the findings. The inspecting engineer should make the reports factual, and be value added.
  2. Report specific observations. Generalities tend to lead to confusion and speculations and gloss over findings.
  3. Avoid unsupported hearsay. Reports should be written in a manner that clearly shows FHWA's involvement and knowledge of the operations.
  4. Provide for followup. Findings and recommendations should be reported, tracked, and followed.

Examples of reporting practices are provided in Appendix F.

Body of Report

Purpose. A purpose of inspection statement can be useful in helping to keep the inspection on track and in informing the reader of what to expect in the report. If the original purpose of the inspection cannot be carried out, this should be explained.

Scope. It is not always apparent what the inspection engineer has done from reading some construction inspection reports. A scope-of-inspection statement can be useful in documenting the inspection activity although action-oriented statements in the report can accomplish the same purpose.

Work Completed. The reporting of work completed to date, placed near the beginning of the report, gives the reader a mental picture of the work site and improves understanding of the discussion that follows. If either the progress or quality of work is reported to be unsatisfactory, further comment is required to support the finding, discuss what is to be done to correct the situation, and clarify the status of Federal-aid participation in the cost of the work during the interim period pending correction of the unsatisfactory condition.

Work in Progress. The discussion of work in progress helps document whether or not the contractor is diligently pursuing the work, and the adequacy of the State's staffing. The amount of detail reported will vary with the time spent on the project and with the purpose and intensity of the inspection. As an example, documented knowledge of work progress serves as a basis for participation in time extensions or the assessment of liquidated damages.

Findings and Comments. As a result of the inspection, it should be possible to draw conclusions about the project work. Some conclusions can be expressed in terms of contract requirements, progress of work, the State's operating procedures, overall quality of construction, item/project overruns and changes, cost containment, and compliance with Federal regulations. Related observations to be discussed are public involvement, stakeholder feedback, weather, and third-party actions that may affect the work.

Opinions of the inspecting engineer should be based on experience and professional judgment. These observations are perfectly valid and frequently valuable. Where such items are discussed with the State, it should be understood and stated as such in the report that they are only suggestions or information, particularly where differences of opinion may exist. It can be disconcerting when a report raises more questions than it answers.

Recommendations. As a result of the inspection, it may be desirable to make recommendations regarding further actions. Unlike the suggestions or information recorded in the Findings and Comments section, recommendations are items to which the State is expected to respond in a timely manner.

Followup Actions. The STA's resolution of previous recommendations should be discussed. Future followup actions should also be set forth in this section.

Supporting Documentation

Self-Sufficiency. Construction inspection reports should be able to stand on their own merit. This is not intended to imply that all information needs to be included in the body of the report; it is appropriate to reference other reports, documents, specifications, and sources.

Work Papers. All the information gathered during the inspection may not be suitable or necessary for inclusion in the report. Such information may be kept in the work papers and filed with the file copy of the report.

Photographs and Drawings. Sketches, drawings, photographs, and other illustrative material form an important part of the report, documentation, and work papers.

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Updated: 11/25/2013
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