Rethinking Construction Inspections to
Improve Structural Safety
August 04, 2021
Construction Inspection Software
In the wake of multiple, sudden building collapses around the globe, a bright light has been shown on a truth that those of us in construction already knew; how crucial the role of focused construction inspections — before and after structure completion — really are.
Though it’s still too early to know the exact causes of these particular structural failures, owners and contractors alike are wanting to ensure that their buildings — and especially the people for whom they are being built — aren’t at risk of such tragic future outcomes. The watchword here? Prevention. Because the way to approach this shouldn’t be from a reactive place of fear but from a proactive place of opportunity for greater vigilance.
Here are some questions to consider as you re-evaluate your construction inspection software and processes.
When was the last time you revisited your internal construction inspection process?
Building codes get revised. Compliance rules change and safety regulations are tightened. Equipment and system technology evolves.
This means that proactively and periodically reviewing and updating your internal inspection processes can help ensure you stay current with these kinds of developments so you don’t run the risk of inadvertently overlooking any issues that can come back to you.
Beyond these external factors, look to internal factors that could compel revising your process. Have you had any of the following occur in recent builds?
- Major defects discovered late in the build (especially that may have extended the defect liability period)
- Safety violations
- Excessively long punch lists near project end
- Callbacks after handover
- Inspection fails for any component of the structure
You can learn a lot, too, by looking at what’s happening in the industry. What’s being reported in the media about safety, structural or environmental failures or enhancements, for example? Use these instances to help inform how you might revise your own construction inspection processes to prevent similar situations.
How frequent are your inspections?
Is your frequency adequate given the type of project? Do you increase the frequency once you find something to monitor that isn’t necessarily cause for concern at the moment? Are your teams going beyond finding minor cosmetic flaws to include purposeful detection of less obvious structural defects?
Do you have a quality assurance (QA) plan established at the beginning of every project?
This is designed to supplement rather than replace the more formal construction inspections conducted by the contractor or an independent agent. And it starts at the beginning. The benefits? A regular schedule ensures that as defects or issues are found they are assigned for repair, improvement or adjustment while construction is still in process — rather than after work has been completed. Plus, it ensures the project is adhering to the contract requirements for quality and safety.
What is your current incident/structural flaw documentation process?
Ideally it provides an auditable written trail, including photographic evidence, that can be used down the road for any questions or claims that come up. Also consider your decision-making procedure as potential issues are discovered: who does it involve and does this depend on the severity? What is your notification procedure to involve the appropriate craftspeople to address it?
Are you using industry-specific construction inspection technology, including a mobile app?
As you take on large infrastructure and capital projects, having a construction software solution can make an already complex process much more manageable and efficient. Construction inspection software streamlines the process and adds a level of certainty to it because you’re better able to document the structural integrity of your project as you go.
Many solutions allow you to customize checklists so nothing is overlooked with each walkthrough. Start with a template then tailor it to suit the requirements for each unique project, making it as comprehensive as you need it to be — accounting for safety regulations, environmental conditions, quality control, building codes and local ordinances. Anything discovered along the way can be addressed more quickly, before it would be discovered by a planned or surprise third-party inspection — and therefore long before it could become a major structural or system safety issue.
Plus, when such construction inspection software features a companion mobile app, you bolster the efficiency of your construction inspection process even more. Not only do you eliminate the risk of lost, illegible or incomplete inspection paperwork, but also re-entering data into spreadsheets for analytics once returning to the back office. Even more, you gain the ability to capture photos, videos and notes — all in real time. This capability alone can make urgent decision-making and corrective measures possible in a fraction of the time it would’ve taken using more traditional methods of conducting inspections.
What other steps can you take to further reduce the likelihood of future structural safety-related incidents?
For future projects, you might consider involving your QA team, project managers, specialty trades and contractors when creating each project-specific construction inspection form. Each will have their own unique perspective on the items that can and should be inspected, what to look for, and when in the build process.
Beyond the construction period, building owners could regularly hire inspectors as a preventive measure to thoroughly go over the building. The goal could be to ensure nothing is out of compliance (particularly as building codes change, you want to know if anything needs to be brought up to code) and that there are no structural safety issues that need to be addressed. If maintenance costs are high, is it because there’s a failing system that should simply be replaced before it becomes a safety or health hazard?
An opportunity to make capital project construction inspections more manageable
At times, construction inspections may feel inconvenient, even tedious in an already very long, complex building process. Therefore, it’s more productive to see the process from a different perspective, as the truly risk-averting, life-saving practice that it should be and can be.
We understand that it may seem impossible for an inspection process to ever be 100% effective, especially for large-scale infrastructure or capital projects when there’s so much to manage. But it’s certainly worth the effort to make improvements where they are possible. One way to do this? Adopt construction inspection software like InEight Compliance to streamline and improve the accuracy of your entire process. Besides online inspection form-building, real-time data capture consolidated in one place, and documentation capabilities, you can also gain more confidence that you’re handing over to an owner a project with documentable structural integrity. Find out more by scheduling a demo now.