Chapter 9: Quality Control/Quality Assurance Program

Anchor: #Introduction of QC/QA Program

Section 1: Introduction of QC/QA Program

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has developed the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) that require the Texas Department of Transportation to develop and implement a Quality Control/Quality Assurance (QC/QA) program for all bridge inspection activities. The bridge inspection process is the source of data used for the management of the state bridge inventory. The data produced from this inspection process is used to make decisions concerning public safety, improving new bridge design, and in the allocation of funds for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of bridges. The quality of those decisions is only as good as the quality of the data collected and recorded. Consistently maintaining reliable and accurate inspection data is critical to the long-term health of the bridge inventory and to the daily protection of the public safety. Inconsistencies in the inspection results can have many sources, including variations between inspectors; subjectivity of condition rating scales; differences in training, education and experience; incomplete or ambiguous procedures and practices; or unclear program requirements. Any of these variables can affect the quality of the data.

The focus of the QC/QA program is to provide independent inspections, reviews, and evaluations of the state bridge inspection procedures, practices, and results in an effort to minimize the inconsistencies and variations in the data collected. The information gathered from this program will be used to improve the final quality of the data and reports available to manage the state bridge inventory.

The QC/QA program seeks to establish and define quality in terms of measureable variations from established procedures, practices, and requirements. As per the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), included in the program will be "periodic field reviews of inspection teams, periodic bridge inspection refresher training for program managers and team leaders, and independent review of inspection reports and computations". The objectives of the program are:

  • Generate a greater consistency of the data collected
  • Standardize the interpretation and prioritization of inspection findings
  • Establish and monitor the qualifications of the personnel involved
  • Identify unclear or misleading information in the guides and manuals
  • Increase communication between all Consultants, Districts and Divisions
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Quality Control

Quality Control (QC) is the implementation of procedures intended to maintain the quality of the statewide bridge inspection program at or above a specified level. Effective Quality Control procedures will increase the statewide uniformity of inspection and recording methods, and will ensure quality reports. This is a daily operational function performed by any entity carrying out inspection operations, whether it is consultant forces, Districts or the Bridge Division. Quality Control procedures help to assure that the public safety is maintained at each bridge, that inspections are performed in accordance with NBIS standards, that bridge files are complete and accurate, and that the documentation of these daily activities is maintained.

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Quality Assurance

Activities for assuring the adequacy and effectiveness of the Quality Control procedures are defined as Quality Assurance (QA). The objective of Quality Assurance activities is not to identify and correct deficiencies within a specific inspection report or bridge folder, but rather to monitor and modify as necessary the statewide bridge inspection program requirements to ensure the overall quality levels are maintained. To be a constructive process, it is important for Quality Assurance procedures to be independent, well documented, and clearly understood by all personnel involved.

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Reviews

Quality Control reviews need to be conducted by Consultants, Districts and the Bridge Division on inspections that each perform. Consultants should review their work, and the work of their sub-consultants, as described in the firm's QC/QA program that is submitted and approved by the Bridge Division. Districts need to review the consultant's work as part of the district's Quality Assurance review plan for the purpose of finding and correcting errors, inconsistencies, or omissions from a specific bridge inspection or consultant submission. The Bridge Division should perform Quality Control reviews on inspections performed by the Bridge Division, as well as perform Quality Assurance reviews on procedures used by the Districts and consultants working directly for the Bridge Division. These Quality Assurance reviews should focus on determining the quality of the procedures used by Districts and Consultants to assure the quality of inspections and data, and identify whether there is a need to correct any inaccuracies in a specific inspection report.

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Summary

This QC/QA program is meant to establish procedures and practices that are practical, pertinent to the statewide bridge management program, and a part of the effort to improve the quality of the TxDOT bridge inspection program. Because these objectives focus on improvement, this program will be updated and changed over time.


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