There’s a lot to navigate when it comes to construction site inspections – quality and jobsite safety standards, regulations, and client needs and expectations, not to mention managing the actual inspection process itself.
It can all feel a bit daunting.
But while they can be challenging, inspections are a helpful tool to keep the construction process running smoothly and safely, so projects stay in line with budget and schedule.
They present an opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive – to work out kinks along the way versus at the end or, worse, when an incident occurs.
In this blog, we’ll answer some common questions about inspections and provide some tips and resources to help you conduct your own effective field checks.
What Are Construction Site Inspections?
Site inspections are regular checks of a jobsite and the work taking place to verify that construction complies with plans and specifications, client requirements, and regulations. They help to ensure the quality and safety of both the construction process and the finished asset.
Inspections are related to monitoring and reporting in construction because both keep projects on track and rely on open communication with stakeholders.
However, site inspections are primarily focused on what can be observed on a jobsite, and how those observations confirm what has been set forth or recorded in project documentation. Monitoring, on the other hand, extends beyond inspections and involves a constant state of vigilance over all aspects of the project (including things off site).
Why Are Construction Site Inspections Important?
Site inspections are critical to the successful completion and delivery of a project:
Regular site inspections keep teams aware of the expectations set for the project. They ensure that construction adheres to the plans, specifications, timeline, and budget.
Regular inspections help identify hazards so they can be addressed before they lead to serious, costly – and potentially tragic – incidents.
Early detection of defects
Prompt inspections can spot defects early on, so problems can be fixed before moving to the next step of construction. In this way, inspections help teams avoid rework – and the costs and delays that can result.
A history of inspection data
A record of inspections shows thoroughness and attentiveness to all requirements and expectations. It provides transparency and demonstrates how any detected flaws have been corrected. As a result, inspection documentation can be referenced in the event of a dispute or a question regarding compliance.
5 Common Site Inspections
Every construction project is different, which means the site inspections required – and who conducts them – will vary. Here, we give a quick look at some of the more common inspection types that will likely be a part of your construction process.
1. Daily site inspections
Daily site inspections serve as a way to record observations about progress, quality, and safety every day. Potential quality issues or hazards discovered during a daily site walk can be addressed right away.
In this way, these frequent internal inspections can catch things in the times between more in-depth quality or safety checks.
2. Quality control inspections
As the name implies, quality control inspections check that construction complies with the quality standards established for the project.
These inspections take the form of regular site walkthroughs and check that materials and the work executed meet not only any applicable regulations but the specifications and quality requirements included in the contract documents.
They monitor how the work is progressing according to the scope, budget, and timeline.
3. Health and safety inspections
These inspections are focused on protecting workers on the jobsite.
They identify hazards and violations so that contractors can take corrective action and create safe conditions for field teams. Ideally, these inspections should be conducted on a weekly basis by a supervisor on site.
Health and safety inspections will cover issues like personal protective equipment, tool and equipment condition, fall protection, scaffolding, and orderliness of the site, among many other things. This will determine compliance with Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) regulations.
OSHA itself conducts periodic site inspections to ensure compliance as well. An OSHA inspector will visit the site and will issue a detailed report to the contractor depending on their findings. The report would note any violations, what needs to be corrected, and a timeframe for addressing the infractions.
4. Draw inspections
A draw inspection is generally conducted when a fund request is submitted to the financier of the project.
A neutral draw inspector will typically carry out the inspection to gauge if the project is proceeding as expected before releasing more funds. This entails assessment of the project’s level of completion and running cost against the planned schedule and budget.
5. Environmental inspections
Environmental inspections assess compliance with applicable federal, state, and local regulations and standards.
Depending on the project, these inspections can range from checking on the effect of construction on wildlife habitat to looking at precautionary measures in place to prevent spills, erosion, or stormwater pollution.
Expertise in the different ways that construction can impact the environment is needed to conduct specific environmental inspections.
Unless you have such a qualified person on staff, you will likely want to enlist third-party services that can conduct the inspections and file the necessary reports with regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. Inspectors from regulatory agencies themselves may also conduct periodic inspections on site.
How to Ensure Successful Inspections
As we’ve seen, site checks can be a rich source of information on your project – helping you see where things are on target or where things need to improve.
Make the most of your inspection efforts with the following pointers.
Create thorough checklists customized to your projects…
A well-thought-out checklist is key to an efficient and effective inspection.
A construction site inspection checklist template is a good place to start, but you’ll want to customize your checklists to account for your project’s specific requirements.
Using a checklist guarantees the necessary points are consistently checked so nothing is overlooked – no matter who on your team is conducting the inspection.
…and keep them up to date.
You may find over time that you’ve built up a library of checklists that you can use across projects with minimal adjustments – great! But you’ll want to revisit them from time to time to make sure they address any new issues and concerns that come up on your job sites.
Put an inspection plan in place.
As the name implies, daily site inspections will occur every day. But it’s a good idea to plan when other quality inspections need to take place – at milestones in the construction process or pay points for subcontractors, for instance.
In your plan, note what it is you need inspected and who on the team is responsible for conducting the check so nothing gets missed.
Be diligent with your inspections and adherence to requirements.
Field inspections provide you with a view of your project at one particular point in time. But things change fast on construction sites, so it’s important to conduct inspections on a regular basis to ensure you’re always tuned in to what’s happening with your project and what the conditions are on the jobsite.
While inspections are events with defined start and end points, a commitment to compliance with quality and safety standards should be continuous.
Conducting frequent checks of your project, keeping good inspections records, and always operating with a compliance mindset will help to foster a safer, smoother construction process – and will go far in keeping you prepared for any surprise inspections.
Use digital inspection forms.
In other blogs, we’ve detailed the downside of using paper for as-built documentation and progress reporting, and the same issues with paper apply when it comes to inspections – paper is less accurate, less efficient, and isn’t widely shareable.
So make use of digital forms to ensure complete, correct, and fast data collection.
Digital checklists are quick and simple to fill out – with Yes/No checkboxes, fields with prefilled answer options, and the ability to easily attach photos or video. When the inspection is complete, the data can be uploaded right from the field and shared instantly with the rest of the project team.
Track your inspections – and their aftermath – in the cloud.
With daily site inspections, weekly safety checks, scheduled visits by external regulators or third parties – keeping tabs on your schedule is a lot.
Then consider that inspections require assigning corrective action tasks and follow up, and it’s not hard to imagine how things can start to slip through the cracks.
Using cloud-based construction software and integrated field inspection apps can help you make sure you don’t miss a thing. With the cloud, all your inspection-related data is accessible at any time to stakeholders in the office or the field. Plus, it updates to reflect real-time site conditions when data captured in the field is securely uploaded.
With up-to-date information in one place, you can be confident that you have an accurate picture of where your inspections stand.
Site Inspection Resources: Checklists, Templates, and More
In the case of the checklists and templates included here, the documents provide a starting point for how you might structure your own forms.
Getting Started with Site Inspection Software
It's important to reiterate: Using digital inspection forms is key to successful inspections.
Mobile software can streamline data collection and sharing, and ensure nothing's lost amid clipboards, email, or text.
We've vetted four of the top site inspection apps. Click below to read the reviews.