Section 4: Quality AssuranceAnchor: #i1006564
Quality Assurance Overview
NBIS defines Quality Assurance (QA) as, “The use of sampling and other measures to assure the adequacy of quality control procedures in order to verify or measure the quality level of the entire bridge inspection and load rating program.”2
The Bridge Division’s Bridge Inspection QA Program is carried out by the Bridge Division’s QA Engineers in conjunction with the Quality Control efforts from the following workgroups:
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- Bridge Division UW and FC Units, Anchor: #UJCHLBCK
- District Bridge Sections, and Anchor: #GUFEFAOH
- Consulting Firms.
The purpose of QA is to confirm that the QC procedures within all facets of TxDOT’s BIP are efficient, that the procedures are suitable to achieve quality, and that the overall QC program is successful in maintaining and improving quality.
The QA reviews are intended to confirm that the QC efforts are equally effective across TxDOT’s BIP, resulting in overall quality and confidence in the BIP. The purpose of QA activities are not to remove, for example, the errors of a specific inspection report or load rating, but to observe and modify the program requirements and procedures, as needed, to ensure that the desired quality levels are maintained and improved.
Important aspects of a QA program include:
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- Reviews being conducted in a uniform manner with documented procedures and practices. These procedures and practices are intended to be constructive with the end goal of improving the BIP. Anchor: #FCPSNPKC
- Consistent areas of discussion, such as frequency of QA reviews, means of assessing quality, reporting requirements, and procedures for implementing corrective actions, should they be warranted. Anchor: #XEIOHCAG
- Fair and objective reviews so that all workgroups are evaluated with the same level of review effort. Anchor: #YBDACAAQ
- The different workgroups understanding the review process, acknowledging the objectives of the QA review, and viewing the process as a positive and collective effort to improve the quality of the BIP.
Elements of TxDOT’s QA reviews will include:
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- the different workgroup organizations and their QC efforts, Anchor: #CRSEGIUU
- a sample of inspection reports and bridge file elements, and Anchor: #OXSKAPKK
- a field review of a sample of bridges.
These elements will be reviewed based on variances such as inspection types, workgroup organization, QC responsibilities, duties, etc.
The presentation of QA review results is important in establishing a method for effectively documenting and evaluating improvements to the BIP over time. Thus, effective QA activities rely on quantitative data as well as qualitative data.
Quantitative data is represented numerically and provides objective assessments of quality, reducing bias and subjectivity of data results. It can be summarized and used for independent analysis and comparison (e.g. the specific number of errors found in the assessment of condition ratings and inventory items from a bridge inspection report or the number of errors found in the Bridge Inspection Management System). It is the quantitative data that makes feasible the unbiased results of QA across the different workgroups in TxDOT’s BIP, provides a measure of each workgroup relative to the overall system, and can be used as a measurement for progress.
Qualitative data is anything not represented numerically and can include general observations or descriptions of performance qualities (above average, inadequate, inconsistent, etc.). Qualitative results help identify areas where actions are warranted.Anchor: #i1006669
Quality Assurance ReviewAnchor: #i1006673
QA Review – Bridge Division Underwater and Fracture Critical Units
The QA reviews on the UW and FC inspection units in Bridge Division will be performed by the Bridge Division’s QA Engineers every two years between reviews. They will consist of two general parts – an office review and a field review. The UW and FC inspection units will be evaluated separately.
The office part of the review will be made up of a discussion of the UW or FC Unit concerning the organization of the unit and inspection team members’ qualifications, how the unit conducts its operations, and a QA inspection documentation review. The QA review of the unit’s QC efforts will use the Division’s QC documentation, existing bridge folders, and the Bridge Inspection Management System. The results of the discussion will yield qualitative data that will include general observations and descriptions of performance qualities. This data can be used to document the results of the QA review and to describe actions to be taken in response to the findings. The QA office review will look at whether the QC bridge inspection documentation review was performed and documented. Additionally, a sampling of bridges will be selected and reviewed for completeness, accuracy, etc. Any data errors resulting from this review will be noted and reported as quantitative discrepancies in the QA report for that unit.
The field review will involve an evaluation of the inspection procedures, equipment used, and reported QC field findings. The results of the field review will be qualitative in nature and will help the reviewer identify areas where actions are warranted.
The results of the QA review will be presented in a report sent to the Program Manager detailing the quantitative and qualitative findings. Corrective actions can be taken or best-practice techniques implemented to improve the quality of the UW and FC inspection units, if warranted. Corrective actions could include changes to manuals, reporting methods, policies or procedures, or training curriculum as well as collaborative meetings, or other appropriate recommendations.Anchor: #i1006705
QA Review – District Bridge Section
The QA reviews on the District Bridge Sections will be performed by the Bridge Division’s QA Engineer responsible for that District, on a regular schedule, not to exceed two years between reviews. They will consist of two general parts – an office review and a field review. The QA review of the District’s QC efforts will focus on the deliverables from the completed work authorizations since the last QA review. The QA Engineer will randomly preselect bridges from the District’s QC documentation for the subject work authorization(s).
The office review will be made up of a discussion of the District Bridge Section concerning the organization of the section, as well as how the section conducts its operations. This will be followed by a QA review of the District’s QC efforts using the District’s QC documentation, existing bridge folders, and the documentation in the Bridge Inspection Management System. The general discussion will include topics such as the District’s Bridge Section personnel, the required qualifications, the organization, record keeping, inspection management, routine inspection work authorizations, quality control approach, and any other TxDOT BIP topics the District bridge personnel would like to discuss. The results of these discussions will yield qualitative data that will include general observations and descriptions of performance measures. This qualitative data can be used to help document the results of the QA review, be used to describe corrective actions, if warranted, to be taken in response to the findings, and identify best practices to share with other Districts.
The QA office review will also look at whether the required percentages of QC review were performed and documented for Electronic Documentation Review, Inspection Team Field Review, and Re-Inspections. The date(s) of the District’s QC review will be compared to the submission dates to verify if the QC review was done in a timely manner.
For the Electronic Documentation Review, the QA Engineer will use a QA checklist that is similar to the “TxDOT QC Review - Bridge Folder Review” form to check for items that should be included in the bridge file. The documents will be reviewed to ensure that the forms are current, have been updated with inspection findings, and that recommended actions are implemented or followed-up upon and documented, if applicable. For examples of additional documentation that may be in the bridge file, see Chapter 8, Section 7, “The Bridge Record” of this manual.
If any of the selected bridges have been load rated, the QA Engineer will conduct a review of the District’s QC efforts by verifying that the Level I and Level II load rating reviews (described in Section 3, in the “QC Bridge Electronic Documentation Review” paragraph of this chapter) were performed. If the District’s review resulted in anything that looked incorrect or suspect, a Level III review should have been initiated, by contacting the Bridge Division’s Load Rating Engineer, to verify the load rating documentation. If a Level III review was warranted, the Bridge Division’s Load Rating Engineer bears the responsibility for verifying or recalculating the load rating. This however does not relieve the District’s responsibility of making sure that the process is carried through its entirety, assuring the correct load posting signs, per recommendations or approved calculations, are erected by established deadlines. Photographs of the final signs are to be uploaded into the bridge management software as soon as possible after installation.
The Bridge Inspection Management System will be spot checked to confirm the coding of various inventory items and that required items have been uploaded into the Bridge Inspection Management System. Any coding errors or missing documentation will be recorded and noted as a deficiency. Another piece of quantitative data that will be determined is the percent of critical findings that have been addressed or followed up on since the last QA review.
The field review will involve a QA Re-Inspection of bridges for which District personnel have performed a QC Re-Inspection. These are listed on the “TxDOT Bridge Inspection QC Review, Bridge Re-Inspection Log.” The results of the routine, district QC, and QA inspection results will be compared. The QA Re-Inspection will be a collaboration between the QA Engineer and District bridge personnel, with on-site discussion of bridge components, condition states, condition ratings, and any follow-up action recommendations. Any condition rating that differs by more than plus or minus one condition rating will be considered out-of-tolerance. If the difference in condition rating is determined to have occurred from damage since the last inspection, this will be noted and no error will be reported.
If applicable, the Elements and their condition states will be reviewed for concurrence.
Any follow-up action recommendations will be discussed to see if the District has acted or plans to act on the recommendations. If any of these actions were reported with critical inspection or scour critical findings and they have yet to be acted upon, this will be quantified, included in the report findings, and will be considered an important corrective action.
The information obtained from the QA office and field reviews will be objective, quantitative data that can be summarized and used for comparison. Information from discussions can lead to qualitative as well as quantitative findings.
The results of the QA review will be presented in a report sent to the Program Manager detailing the quantitative and qualitative findings so that corrective actions, should they be warranted, can be taken or best-practice techniques implemented to improve the quality of the overall BIP.Anchor: #i1006817
QA Review – Consulting Firm QC Program and Efforts
At a minimum of once for the duration of the contract, the QA Engineer assigned to a current Consulting Firm will review the Firm’s QC Program on file. The QA Engineer will schedule a visit to the Consulting Firm’s office, visit with the PM, review their QC documentation, and discuss any concerns, comments, or suggestions they have with TxDOT’s BIP. Since QC programs vary significantly from firm to firm, a standard rating form would not be appropriate. Therefore, the QA Engineer will advise TxDOT’s BIP Program Manager as to whether or not the Consulting Firm is following its own QC Program. These office visits can be performed with little advanced notice to the Consulting Firm.
The results of the QA review will be presented in a report sent to the Consulting Firm. A copy of the same report will be provided to the TxDOT BIP Program Manager. The report will detail the quantitative and qualitative findings, so that corrective actions, should they be warranted, can be taken or best-practice techniques suggested for implementation, thus improving the overall BIP. The corrective actions could include changes to policies, procedures, or training curriculum as well as collaborative meetings or other appropriate recommendations.