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A Look at Effective Quality Control Practices

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2019

By Alex Thrasher


Quality control programs and reporting are nothing new to the protective coatings industry. Manufacturers’ product data sheets and engineers’ and owners’ specifications make clear that surface preparation must be performed and materials must be applied only when environmental conditions are within acceptable limits.

Likewise, contractors and quality inspectors are accustomed to completing QC reports to document on-site environmental conditions, the work activities performed and the quality measurements achieved during surface preparation and coatings application. The advancement of QC software and other monitoring technologies over the last decade or so makes it easier than ever to continuously document environmental conditions.

As a contractor or owner, you should embrace the benefits associated with a top-notch QC program marked by diligent and accurate completion of QC reports, but you should be equally aware of the pitfalls that can arise when this aspect of the project is mismanaged and a legal dispute arises.

Ralf Geithe

Although it is never a goal to end up in litigation or another dispute resolution proceeding because of your work on a project, it is helpful to consider whether your QC program and practices would aid or damage your case if you were.

To resolve disputes, lawyers must evaluate facts related to a project in terms of claims made by each side and the potential defenses and counterarguments to those claims. If or when disputes arise on a project (for instance, if a coating system fails), the existence or absence of a QC program and the information included on QC reports (along with what’s not written on them) can be compelling evidence that either helps or hurts an interested party’s position.

Although it is never a goal to end up in litigation or another dispute resolution proceeding because of your work on a project, it is helpful to consider whether your QC program and practices would aid or damage your case if you were. Here are three points you should always remember:

Your program on paper is only as good as your program in the field.

A QC program that looks great on paper might do wonders to help you win a project. But that same program, if poorly implemented, can cost you thousands, or more, if it is not executed as intended. Put thought into your QC program. It is easy to establish a practice on paper because it is an owner requirement or necessary to obtain an industry certification, but if you are not able and willing to fully implement the program, what seemed like a gold star in your favor at bid time can damage your credibility and be used to draw inferences against you in court. It is often worse to create a program or plan that says you will do something and not do it, than to never have said anything at all. Take the time to review your QC program and make sure you and your employees are executing your work accordingly. Your program must be more than a statement of values held only by the owners or upper management of the company. In fact, more than anything, it must be a daily commitment by your employees in the field. 

Train your employees well, train them often and verify training effectiveness.

Training employees and setting expectations for what it means to implement your QC program in the field are critical considerations that require ongoing attention. The training you conduct should be informed by a comprehensive view of what’s practical and sustainable for your business (as discussed above). Think about information that needs to be included on QC reports or in superintendent log books. Think about times when it makes just as much sense to record activities that did not happen on a given day as those activities that did and why. Once you’ve established the appropriate parameters in light of your operations, conduct regular training on how to perform day-to-day QC functions. Above all, make sure your employees understand the importance of consistency in when, why and how information is recorded. Remember, the absence of a record can be just as compelling as the existence of one in certain situations. Make sure project managers review these documents regularly. If there is a problem in the documentation it needs to be corrected as soon as possible. Make sure records are stored in a central location so they are easy to locate and review and protected from loss or damage. Finally, make sure the company has a document retention policy in place (and that it is followed, as well).

Do not be afraid to call on legal counsel.

Be proactive about seeking guidance on the legal risks associated with your business or a project. I know, no one ever wants to get lawyers involved, and people certainly don’t want lawyers dictating how to run a business, but as the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The right lawyer can add value to your business and make you more profitable. Rational contractors do not want to litigate disputes. They would much rather do the job they were contracted to do, get paid and move on to the next project. Proactive clients who seek advice about issues that might arise in the future often come out ahead of clients who wait to call until there is a real mess and a lot of damage has been done. Lean on the legal resources at your disposal. Engage your attorney to conduct a review of your programs or to present needs-based training to your team for legal perspective on discrete topics that affect your business.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Alex Thrasher

Alex Thrasher is an attorney in the Construction Practice Group of the law firm of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP. Prior to joining Bradley, Thrasher worked for an industrial painting contractor for six years. Bradley has 10 office locations across the country and regularly advises clients on all aspects of construction and other complex commercial matters throughout the United States and around the world. For more information please visit https://www.bradley.com or email at athrasher@bradley.com.

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Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Good Technical Practice; Government; Latin America; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; North America; Quality control

Comment from Yan David, (10/28/2019, 2:38 AM)

Fully agreed with your points. Effect and reliable documents for daily job are even more important than your job in somehow, however, my such simple fact is not realized by majority contractors, they deemed daily log as useless paper work, show very much lower attention to it.


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