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Section 3: Quality Control

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Quality Control Overview

NBIS defines Quality Control (QC) as “procedures that are intended to maintain the quality of a bridge inspection and load rating at or above a specified level.”2

QC procedures are designed to assure a minimum level of compliance with standards while simultaneously aiming to improve the quality of the overall BIP. QC procedures are divided into two categories: Programmatic and Review Elements.

This section provides QC procedures as they apply to the different BIP workgroups (Bridge Division, District Bridge Sections, and Consulting Firms).

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QC Programmatic Elements

Programmatic elements are those procedures that are tied to the operation of a structured on-going practice that is carried out throughout the year and requires the maintenance of documentation. Programmatic elements applicable to the BIP address the following areas:

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QC Programmatic Elements – Bridge Division

Bridge Inspection Program Organization

The Bridge Division Program Manager will keep a list of both District and Division personnel that administer the BIP and will update it as changes occur. The BIP personnel list will record information on personnel for the different workgroups involved with the BIP, listing names, role titles, and contact information.

The names, role titles, and contact information of all Consulting Firm personnel performing bridge inspection services for TxDOT under Prime Consultant and Sub-Consultant capacities, will be documented in a separate personnel list.

It is the Program Manager’s responsibility to ensure that the personnel lists are reviewed and updated on regular basis, at least once per year. The TxDOT BIP personnel list will be made available electronically via the TxDOT Intranet, under the Bridge Division, Field Operations, Inspection directory as a link titled, “Bridge Inspection Contact List.” Refer to Appendix C for links to this information. Contact information for the assigned Consulting Firm will be provided to District personnel along with each routine inspection contract work assignment.

Bridge Inspection Personnel Qualifications

The Bridge Division Program Manager will maintain records documenting the qualifications, completion of required training (copies of class certificates) certifications, and bridge inspection experience of both District and Division TxDOT personnel that administer and manage the BIP. These records will be updated as individuals’ statuses change. The Program Manager will maintain similar records for consultant PMs, TLs, and sub-consultant TLs. It is the Program Manager’s responsibility to ensure that personnel records are reviewed and updated at least once a year. It is the responsibility of the PM of each Prime Consulting Firm to do the same.

A list of consultant Approved Inspection Team Leaders is available through the TxDOT Intranet and Internet sites. This list is reviewed as consultant personnel statuses change and website lists are updated as needed. Refer to Appendix C for links to this list.

Inspection Planning Practices

For any inspection (routine, FC, UW, etc.) performed by a TL, if possible, that person should refrain from participating in the inspection of the same structure during the next inspection cycle. This is intended to enhance the quality of the inspection program by providing for a different set of eyes on the same structure, thus enabling inspection results from different inspectors to be compared. It is important that organized, well documented records of the inspection findings and personnel involved with the inspections be kept. If there are major inconsistencies between the inspection findings reported by the two TLs, this can allow for analysis and discussion of the cause of the inconsistency so that overall quality can be improved.

Bridge File Maintenance

The Bridge Division UW and FC units maintain the detailed folders for UW and FC inspections. The routine bridge inspection files for bridges with these types of inspections remain with the District Bridge Section. Since UW and FC inspections are overseen and documentation processed by Division personnel, it is important that transmittal of the final documentation associated with these inspections is forwarded, as it becomes available, to the District Bridge Section so the routine bridge inspection file is properly maintained.

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QC Programmatic Elements – District Bridge Section

Bridge Inspection Personnel Organization and Qualifications

It is the responsibility of the District Bridge Engineer or District BIC to notify the Program Manager of any changes to personnel in the District Bridge Section or any changes discovered with the Consulting Firm staff, as well as any changes affecting personnel qualifications, as soon as this information is known.

It is the responsibility of the Consulting Firm PM to inform the Districts and the Program Manager of any change in inspection personnel or change in qualifications of personnel.

Inspection Planning Practices

It is important to keep organized records of inspection findings and personnel involved in the inspection of bridges. This is done in order to avoid having personnel perform an inspection on the same bridge(s) during consecutive inspection cycles, running the risk of becoming complacent with findings. In addition to keeping well organized records, open dialogue between personnel from the different BIP workgroups is essential to preventing this type of deficiency.

Inspection results from two different inspection TLs concerning the same bridge can be compared. Different perspectives and inconsistencies regarding the inspection procedures and/or results can be identified, discussed, and addressed thus increasing the quality of future inspections.

Bridge File Maintenance

The maintenance of the official electronic bridge file is an on-going task. Although the Bridge Division and Consulting Firm staff update and upload information to the bridge management software, as the asset owner, the ultimate responsibility for carrying out this task falls to the District Bridge Section personnel. Bridge files need to be updated as changes to the bridge occur or inspection (routine, FC, UW, etc.) documentation becomes available. For example, rail upgrades, structure widenings, overlays, repairs, results from an inspection after a significant occurrence, etc., all require that documentation be included in the hard-copy bridge file as well as uploaded into the bridge management software.

Documentation for an inspection performed by personnel from a Consulting Firm is completed, placed in the bridge folder, and uploaded into the bridge management software. It is the responsibility of the District Bridge Section personnel to ensure that these tasks are performed thoroughly and according to existing guidelines. Access by others to these documents is vital to maintaining the quality of future inspection findings and for planning and other decision making purposes. Hard copies of bridge files shall be kept in a secure location.

Refer to Chapter 8 of this manual, “Bridge Records,” for detailed information regarding bridge documentation filing, documentation requirements, etc.

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QC Programmatic Elements – Bridge Inspection Consulting Firm

These practices are internal to each Consulting Firm and will not be discussed in this manual.

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Quality Control Review Elements

Review elements are those procedures and protocols that are tied to specific tasks related to the bridge inspection process that occur during a specific time frame. The purpose of these procedures is to ensure that the quality of the bridge inspection process (office and field efforts) is maintained. The Reviewer is evaluating the quality of the bridge inspection process by confirming that there is a relationship between the inspection documentation and the reported findings (i.e. written comments and photographs are in line with conditions ratings). It is important to note that the Reviewer is not “critiquing” the inspector’s ratings and/or comments. The Reviewer is implicitly evaluating the inspector’s adherence to inspection practice regarding procedures, guidelines, and training. Indirectly, the inspector’s proficiency to convey inspection findings through the required documentation is assessed. Three effective QC review elements used to evaluate the bridge inspection process include:

QC review elements procedures are performed for each work authorization and typically involve the use of checklists to ensure that the reviews are carried out thoroughly and in a consistent manner. In addition, a 10-folder initial submittal by the consultant to the District is highly recommended. These 10-folders should receive a thorough QC review with feedback to the consultant in order that comments or any needed revisions to the content of the deliverables is incorporated into future work. Turnaround for this review should take no more than 2 weeks.

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QC Review Elements - Bridge Division Underwater (UW) and Fracture Critical (FC) Units

QC Bridge Inspection Documentation Review

For bridges with no significant findings, UW and FC inspections are typically scheduled for 60 and 24 month intervals, respectively. These bridges are relatively limited in number. The documentation process requires detailed descriptions and accurate measurements. For these reasons, QC bridge inspection documentation review efforts for UW and FC inspections performed by Bridge Division personnel will be exercised for every inspection. Since the personnel involved with this type of inspection are limited, the first stage of the QC bridge inspection documentation review process will be handled within the team members of the UW and FC Units.

Stage 1 of the QC bridge inspection documentation review process:

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  • The UW or FC Unit Inspector prepares the documentation and performs a review of his/her own work. The Inspector will use a checklist to assure that the documentation is complete prior to forwarding it to another team member for a secondary review.
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  • A second team member of the UW or FC Unit (this person cannot be the TL or the Engineer-of-Record) will perform a check on the documentation prepared by the Inspector. When performing this step of the QC bridge inspection documentation review, this team member will continue with the same checklist the Inspector used in the actions discussed under the first bullet above, using a second set of checkboxes.
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  • The TL performs a similar review on the documentation as the Inspector and second team member. The TL will record their review findings using a third set of checkboxes on the same checklist. (If the TL and the Inspector are the same person, the actions discussed under this bullet will be skipped.)
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  • The Engineer-of-Record will perform a review of the documentation. The checklist used in the actions discussed above will be part of the documentation reviewed by the Engineer-of-Record.

Stage 2 of the QC bridge inspection documentation review will consist of the Program Manager performing a review on a combined 10% of the UW and FC inspections for each Inspector on a yearly basis.

QC Bridge Re-Inspection

Performing UW and FC bridge inspections requires specially trained personnel and equipment. Additionally, these types of inspections will typically require timely and detailed communication with District personnel, bridge owners, and possibly external entities (FAA, Coast Guard, law enforcement, etc.) due to factors such as bridge location, use, geometric constraints, traffic volumes, and traffic control needs. For this reason, QC bridge re-inspection for UW and FC inspections performed by Bridge Division personnel will not be performed unless specifically requested by the Program Manager. If requested, the Program Manager will advise of the participants performing this QC bridge re-inspection review.

QC Inspection Team Field Review

Performing UW and FC bridge inspection requires specialized trained personnel and equipment. Therefore, the Program Manager, or their designee, will perform an annual review of inspection qualifications for in-house TxDOT personnel assigned to perform these types of inspections. The qualification of TLs for these inspections is verified prior to each team’s departure to the field.

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QC Review Elements – District Bridge Section

In the following discussions, it is assumed that Consulting Firms (Prime Consultants and Sub-Consultants) under contract with TxDOT are performing routine inspection services for the District Bridge Sections.

QC Bridge Folder Review

The inspection contract deliverables are submitted to the District by the Prime Consultant in batches according to bridge inspection due date, submittal deadlines, and District instructions. As these are submitted, a minimum of 10% of the bridge folders from every batch will be reviewed to verify that:

The review of the load rating will include a Level I and Level II review.

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  • A Level I review process includes ensuring that the correct load limits and proper load limit signs are in place for instances where previously recommended load postings are retained. Recommended changes to load postings will be verified at a later time not to exceed either 90 days for On-System or 180 days for Off-System. Load rating items will be checked and updated in the bridge management software as necessary to reflect recommended and existing field conditions. For proposed load posting changes, photos depicting the final signs will be included in the bridge folder as well as uploaded into the bridge management software as soon as possible after installation.
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  • A Level II review process involves all of the Level I process plus checking:
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    • documentation for completeness,
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    • signatures and seals,
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    • that assumptions made with respect to the condition of the bridge are reflective of current field conditions,
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    • that the assumptions are accounted for in the values used in the load rating calculations, and
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    • that the calculated results are those which are reported in the bridge management software.

The review of recorded data is limited to verification of the bridge major component ratings (e.g. Items 58, 59, 60 and 62) through the use of comments and photographs included with the current inspection report and comparison of ratings from previous inspection results (with consideration of expected bridge deterioration).

It is important to follow through with the required scheme of reviewing 10% of bridge folders for every batch of submitted folders as they are returned to the District. Bridge folder review procedures will be an ongoing task for the duration of the inspection cycle work authorization(s). The importance of this lies in assuring that the work submitted by different TLs used throughout the duration of the inspection cycle work authorization(s) is reviewed and feedback provided to them for purposes of continued improvement.

Typically when a submittal of folders is made to the District this is accompanied by a list that identifies all the bridge folders being submitted by permanent structure numbers (PSNs) and bridge types. Use this information and consider the following when selecting the bridge folders to be reviewed:

Appendix C in this manual addresses the logs and forms to be completed with each QC bridge folder review.

QC Bridge Re-Inspection

A QC bridge Re-Inspection consists of a qualified TL from each District performing independent inspections of bridges inspected by consultants under contract with TxDOT. These bridge Re-Inspections are conducted for the following purposes:

A minimum of 5% of the total number of bridges inspected under the current work authorization(s) will be re-inspected under this QC bridge Re-Inspection procedure. These Re-Inspections must be performed by a qualified District Bridge Section TL.

Although it may be difficult to accomplish due to personnel limitations and deliverable submittal dates, when practical, schedule the Re-Inspections so that they are done within 90 days after the consultant’s performance of the routine inspection so that field conditions would not have changed significantly between the two inspections.

Below are some suggestions to aid in the selection of bridges to be re-inspected:

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  • review Bridge Inspection Follow-Up Action Worksheet Summary spreadsheets looking for bridges with problematic issues that were reported during previous inspection cycle(s) that have not yet been addressed,
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  • bridges that have been submitted for critical findings,
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  • review the “List of Structures” (required by Routine Work Authorization) for items coded “4” or lower (current inspections),
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  • run query in the bridge management software for coded values of “6” and lower for the following items: deck, superstructure, substructure, culvert, and channel (including scour),
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  • run query in the bridge management software for new bridges,
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  • bridges with any rehabilitation or widening that may have taken place since the previous inspection cycle,
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  • run query in the bridge management software for type of superstructure (keep eye out for superstructures that have known problems, for example cracking in the ends of pre-stressed girders, punch-through failures in pan girders, etc.),
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  • bridges with load postings and recommended postings,
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  • review inspector name, attempt to re-inspect bridges for different inspectors,
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  • identify county and roadway, get an assessment of the different bridge types throughout the review area,
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  • check to see that the bridges selected were not part of the Inspection Team Field Review efforts or re-inspected during the previous last two cycles unless there is a specific reason to do so, e.g. the bridge was rehabilitated, widened or is still in need of critical or safety-related repairs,
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  • bridges that may be on an increased frequency inspection schedule, and
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  • verify the type of structure and feature crossed so as to ensure a mix of structures (culverts, stream crossings, and grade separations).

Appendix C in this manual addresses the logs and forms to be completed with each bridge Re-Inspection field review.

QC Inspection Team Field Review

Another field QC review by the District Bridge Section consists of performing bridge Inspection Team Field Reviews that evaluate the performance of a Consulting Firm’s staff (Prime and Sub-Consultants) as the inspections are being performed. A minimum of 2% of the total number of bridges inspected during a routine inspection cycle will have an Inspection Team Field Review performed. The purpose of the Inspection Team Field Review is to evaluate the inspecting team on inspection procedures NOT the accuracy of the inspection ratings. An Inspection Team Field Review will typically involve, but not be limited to, reviewing for compliance with safety guidelines, use of adequate equipment for the type of structure and field conditions, and implementation of established inspection procedures as per NBIS and TxDOT requirements.

As with the Re-Inspection Field Review, the Inspection Team Field Review should also consist of a selection of bridges that may contribute to constructive feedback that will add quality to the inspection process. The Inspection Team Field Review should also be performed throughout the duration of the routine inspection cycle so that it includes an assortment of different bridges and different TLs. When selecting the bridges to be included in the Inspection Team Field Review consider the following:

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  • review Follow-Up Action Worksheet Summaries looking for bridges with problematic issues that were reported during previous inspection cycle(s) but have not been addressed,
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  • run query in the bridge management software for coded values of “6” and lower for the deck, superstructure, substructure, culvert, and channel (including scour) from the previous inspection cycle,
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  • run query in the bridge management software and review notices advising of bridges newly added to the inventory,
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  • bridges with any rehabilitation or widening that may have taken place since the previous cycle inspection,
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  • run query in the bridge management software for type of superstructure (keep eye out for designs no longer supported by division or superstructures that are on the “look-out” list, e.g. pan girders or specific construction material),
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  • identify county and roadway, get an assessment of the different bridge types throughout the review area,
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  • check to see that the bridges selected were not co-inspected or re-inspected during the previous last two cycles unless there is a specific reason to do so, e.g. the bridge was rehabilitated or the bridge was widened,
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  • bridges that may be on an increased frequency inspection schedule,
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  • bridges that cross different features (for example: stream, railroad, roadway - these will involve different inspection procedures and documentation),
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  • inquire ahead of time who is inspecting (perform field reviews of different inspectors); ensure the inspection Team Leader meets NBIS requirements,
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  • bridges that are load posted, and
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  • bridges that previously had Critical Inspection Findings.

Although scheduling of the bridge Inspection Team Field Review may be dependent on the consultant’s schedule, the Reviewer can anticipate an approximate range of dates of when these inspections may take place based on inspection due dates, allowing for scheduling of unannounced visits by District and Division personnel.

Open, effective communication with the consulting bridge inspector is important for successful Inspection Team Field Reviews. A good practice as part of this communication is to set up a protocol in which the consulting inspector submits a weekly schedule identifying proposed bridge inspection locations and inspection dates. Ask the Consultant to submit this schedule at least a week in advance of beginning the inspections and to narrow down the location of these bridge inspections to roadway control-section identifications, if possible. A bridge inspector may have this information available ahead of time and although this schedule may change slightly due to unforeseen circumstances, the schedule will typically not change significantly. Some situations will require advance notice to the consultant inspector but as much of the review as possible should be unannounced.

Performing bridge Inspection Team Field Reviews requires dedication. Personnel conducting these reviews should not sacrifice the quality of the results that a bridge Inspection Team Field Review may yield in order to meet the 2% Team Field Review requirement. Proper planning should be exercised. This may include requesting bi-weekly inspection schedules from the PM for the purpose of unannounced field reviews.

NOTE: For example, if the consultant has plans to inspect six culverts and one span bridge, and the span bridge will allow for a quality Inspection Team Field Review, consider reviewing one culvert inspection and the inspection of the span bridge. Other District field activities can be performed (e.g. scour or follow-up inspections) throughout the day to fill gaps in the schedule. There is no need to follow the consultant through six culvert bridge Inspection Team Field Reviews that will probably yield very similar results.

When coordinating with the consultants, a balance must be struck between having a minimal impact on the consultants’ scheduling and obtaining quality field reviews of varying inspectors and structure types. It is important to remember that every effort should be made to impact the consultants’ inspection efforts as little as possible.

Appendix C in this manual addresses the logs and forms to be completed with each bridge Inspection Team Field Review.

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QC Review Elements – Consulting Firm QC Program and Efforts

There is currently no defined format for a Consulting Firm’s QC Program. The bridge inspection contract Scope of Services for Routine FC and UW inspections requires that all Consulting Firms contracted to perform bridge inspections for TxDOT have a QC Program defining internal procedures to ensure that the deliverables submitted to TxDOT by the Prime and Sub-Consultants are of high quality. These internal procedures are to be written into a plan which is to be submitted to the Bridge Division Program Manager prior to initiating work. The Consulting Firm’s QC Program may be reviewed by TxDOT Bridge Division personnel on a random basis.


2. CFR Title 23, Part 650, Subpart C – National Bridge Inspection Standards, § 650.305

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