Based on my experience in project management on rail transit projects, here are my best practices on field monitoring construction, which were compiled from work on capital projects for railroad infrastructure.
More often than not, most rail transit projects include multiple construction contracts and the use of railroad construction trades (referred to as Force Account - FA) to perform work over a vast project site. The work locations will change as work progresses and there not always barricades or work zone fences to protect the work site nor is there an on-site project office. All work is performed on the Right-Of-Way (ROW) with train service maintained for customers. Each active work location will be controlled by the individual FA work crews or by Contractors with appropriate railroad construction managers, protective services for track outages and power outages, safety escorts and/or flag protection services where sites have moving trains or on-track vehicles.
Contractors and FA will provide full supervision on site to create and safe and secure environment and to assure work performance meets schedule, work quality and safe work practices. Additionally, Contractor’s will submit a Safe Work Plan and detailed site specific work plans for each work location, and as specified by contract or purchase order, will assign Safety and Quality Managers to supplement supervision and project management. FA will establish a dedicated Safety Manager, and assign FA Managers accountable for monitoring of quality and safe work practices of in-house forces. FA will also assign personnel for inspection and acceptance of work performed by Contractors.
While contracts include Monthly Progress Reports and Meeting Minutes, these documents alone do not provide a continuous daily record of project work. Although there may be no fixed office, contractors maintain on-site logs and records of construction activities. However, these documents are not always available or accessible to project managers and other team members, who may be located at a project office miles from the work location. As a result, the daily construction oversight by project management (PM) personnel (or designated staff and GEC consultants) is critical to filling communications gaps and providing the project management staff with daily reports on activities in the field. The field activities will consist of:
• Reviewing Daily Field Reports from contractors and FA
• Visiting active work sites to observe safe work practices, signage and safety equipment, and to assess work means and methods
• Inspecting and recording contractor or FA compliance with construction documents
• Submitting field reports and coordinating observations with project controls and quality personnel
• Assuring controls for the entry and exit of personnel, equipment and materials at each work location
• Supervising activities of all visitors to site, including Independent Testing Agencies (ITA), mark-out contractors, safety officers/inspectors, code compliance officers, and FA/owner inspectors
Plan for Field Conditions
Field work on railroad construction project can vary greatly as will conditions regarding field offices and access to equipment and facilities for monitoring activities. For work on train stations, shops and yards and electrical substations, the site can usually be a fixed area where a fence can be erected to secure and control the work zone. The area will also allow for project offices, employee facilities, parking, and storage for materials, tools, and equipment.
However, for infrastructure systems such as track, power, signal and communications, the work area can cover miles of ROW. With the work zone and access changing daily with progress, there is no fenced work zone or offices available for meetings, administrative work and employee lockers. As a result, contractors, ITAs, construction managers and project oversight need to adapt. This typically means carrying the essential contents of the project office with them in vehicles, such as contract documents, safety equipment, telephones, test equipment, and outreach information. All other project offices activities will be performed at home office locations or designated headquarters.
Good Practices for Field Activities
• Conduct site walkthroughs at the start and end of the workday
• Observe and assess safe work practices and site housekeeping
• Verify work activity comply with the contract requirements
• Participate in job briefing and safe work meetings
• Assure work activities respect and minimize inconvenience for the day to day interaction with parties outside the work area
• Take and transmit photographs to main offices throughout the workday showing progress, field conditions, safe work practices and quality checks
• Submit Daily Field Reports to main offices by close of business or before next day start-up
• Notify the PMO and as needed, local authorities of any vandalism or stolen property
TIP: Always have access to the contract documents, approved work plans, and utility mark-outs, and use them while observing work. As needed, cite them in verifying compliance or providing field direction.
TIP: To aid in reporting of vandalism and stolen property, contractors should maintain descriptions and serial numbers of equipment and tools stored at the site.
TIP: Conduct telephone status meetings with main office at the start and end of workday.
Good Practices for Field Reports
• Document Timeline of progress throughout the work period
• Identify all subcontractor and visitors to the work site
• Record verbal reports from conducting special inspections by ITAs or Owner/FA representatives
• Correlate observations to specific contract requirements
• Indicate results from pre-construction field surveys and mark-outs
TIP: Record field direction to contractor from differing field conditions, including underground utilities not shown on mark-outs by in-house asset management or by outside “One Call” contractors hired on behalf of outside utilities/companies with assets in the construction work zone.