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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.”1

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 the list quarterly. The BIP personnel list will list 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. Contact information for the assigned Consulting Firm will be provided to District personnel along with each routine inspection contract work assignment. This list will be updated on an as needed basis.

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.

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 upon notification of individual's status changes and will be reviewed for accuracy on a yearly basis.

The Program Manager will maintain similar records for consultant PMs, TLs, and sub-consultant TLs. It is the responsibility of the PM of each Prime Consulting Firm to review and update personnel records if changes occur, and notify TxDOT with any changes. A list of consultant Approved Inspection Team Leaders is available through the TxDOT Intranet and Internet sites. The Approved Team Leader lists will be updated on a quarterly basis by the Inspection Branch of Bridge Division. 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. Inspection documents should clarify the roles of each individual participating in inspections.

Bridge File Maintenance

The Bridge Division UW and FC units maintain the inspection files for UW and FC inspections. The routine bridge inspection files for bridges with these types of inspections are maintained by the District Bridge Section. The District Bridge Section is able to access the completed UW and FC inspection files via the Bridge Inspection Management System; filters can be saved to view recently completed inspections.

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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 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 Inspection Management System, 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 within 90 days of changes to the bridge data as a result of inspection (routine, FC, UW, etc.). For example, rail upgrades, structure widenings, overlays, repairs, results from an inspection after a significant occurrence, etc., all require that documentation be uploaded into the Bridge Inspection Management System.

Completed documentation for an inspection performed by personnel from a Consulting Firm is uploaded into the Bridge Inspection Management System. It is the responsibility of the District Bridge Section personnel to ensure that these tasks are performed thoroughly and according to existing guidelines.

Refer to Chapter 8 of this manual, “Bridge Records,” for detailed information regarding bridge documentation electronic filing, documentation requirements, etc. Requirements for secure storage of remaining hard copy files are given in this chapter as well.

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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:

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  • QC Bridge Inspection Electronic Documentation Review (10% of bridges, per batch submittal),
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  • QC Bridge Re-Inspection (5% of bridges, per batch submittal), and
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  • QC Inspection Team Field Review (2% of scheduled inspections per consultant field trip).

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, an initial submittal of documentation from 10 completed bridge inspections from the consultant to the District is highly recommended. This 10 bridge submittal should receive a thorough QC review with feedback to the consultant so 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. 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 by the team members of the UW and FC Units through the Bridge Inspection Management System report approval process.

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 or her own work. The Inspector sends the report for Preliminary Approval to a team leader member of the UW or FC Unit (this person cannot be the Engineer of Record).
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  • The TL performs an independent review on the report documentation. If corrections are needed, the report is returned to the report creator. If the report is satisfactory, the TL will send the report to the Engineer of Record for Final Approval Review.
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  • The Engineer of Record will perform an independent review of the report documentation. If corrections are needed, the report is returned to the report creator. If the report is satisfactory, the Engineer of Record will sign and seal the report, and perform the Final Approval.

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 Inspection Electronic Documentation 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 bridges 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 Inspection Management System as necessary to reflect recommended and existing field conditions. For proposed load posting changes, photos depicting the final signs will be as uploaded into the Bridge Inspection Management System 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 Inspection Management System.

The review of recorded data is limited to verification of the bridge major component ratings (e.g. Items 58, 59, 60 and 62) using 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 bridges for every batch of submitted bridges as they are returned to the District. Bridge inspection documentation 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 is made to the District this is accompanied by a list that identifies all the bridges being submitted by permanent structure numbers (PSNs) and bridge types. The following best practice criteria shall be used to select bridges for the 10% electronic documentation review:

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  • Variety of superstructure types; avoid selecting the same type of bridge for the entire review sample (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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  • Mixture of span bridges and culverts, (dependent upon submittal content),
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  • New structures,
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  • Structures recently rehabilitated or widened,
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  • Variety of TLs (strive to review work from as many TLs as possible, prime and sub)
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  • Structures with load postings,
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  • Structures located in different counties,
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  • Bridges with critical findings (to verify that appropriate supporting documentation/photographs are included), and
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  • Bridges that cross different features (for example: stream, railroad, roadway - these will require different types of documentation).

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

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.

The following best practice criteria shall be used to select bridges for the 5% re-inspection review:

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  • Structures in the routine inspection work authorization,
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  • Structures with critical findings and load postings,
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  • Structures with condition ratings of a 5 or below for items 58, 59, 60 and 62,
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  • Structures with condition ratings of 3 or lower for 58, 59, 60 or 62 or item 113 of a 2 or lower,
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  • Structures with problematic superstructure types, such as pre-stressed girders with end cracking or pan girders with punch-through failures,
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  • Structures with increased inspection frequency,
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  • New structures,
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  • Structures recently rehabilitated or widened,
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  • Variety of TLs (strive to review work from as many TLs as possible, prime and sub) Mixture of span bridges and culverts (dependent upon submittal content),
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  • Structures with different county and roadway classifications, IH, US, FM/RM, etc,
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  • Structures that did not receive any QC review in the last two cycles,
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  • Mixture of bridges and culverts (grade separation/stream crossing) and bridge superstructure types (steel/timber/concrete),
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  • Structures with Follow-Up Actions reported during previous inspection cycles that have not been addressed.

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.

The following best practice criteria shall be used to select bridges for the 2% inspection team field review:

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  • Variety of TLs (strive to review work from as many TLs as possible, prime and sub),
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  • Mixture of on and off system structures,
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  • Mixture of bridges, culverts, and bridge superstructure types
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  • Mixture of structures with different county and roadway classifications
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  • Structures that cross different features, such as railroad, stream crossing, grade separation.

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.

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. Per the selection criteria given above, one should not 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.


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

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