Inspect What You Expect

Sept. 1, 2009

“Inspect What You Expect” is kind of a catchy phrase. It was a directive that was given to all of the managers at a company I worked for years ago by industry professional John Lake. This phrase has always stuck with me, and I have used it daily from managing business to conducting inspections on construction sites. For me, it has always been a reminder to manage all the assets under my control. In business, it is related to the management of your expenses, revenues, personnel, paperwork, and other resources. In stormwater, it pretty much means the same thing: Manage your responsibilities.

In business, you want to manage your expenses. You want to know your costs and maximize your return on every dollar you spend. In stormwater management, expenses may be what you are willing to pay for protection. Many times we look at the cheapest product or the lowest cost for application, thinking that we may save a dollar here or there without thinking in terms of longevity or performance. I see it time after time when I inspect, and most times I find what I expect: The cheaper application did not hold up, and the site requires another application. Now there are additional expenses beyond what it would have cost for a one-time installation of a better product or for using experienced applicators. Sometimes it is the other extreme that creates additional expenses. These include activities like the purchase of additional BMPs that are not necessary, such as silt fence installed at the top of a slope or a combination of BMPs at a discharge point when one properly installed BMP would have been sufficient.

You need to determine if you are paying for too much, or if you are not paying enough, and what protection you are getting for each dollar of expense. And follow up-or as I was taught: “Inspect What You Expect.”

In business, revenues are thought of in terms of dollars received. As long as your revenues exceed your expenses, you are making a profit. In stormwater management, revenue takes on different forms. Revenue can be the fine you did not have to pay or the days of work that were not lost because you remained in compliance. It could also be the mitigation you did and not having to pay for cleaning up a stream, since you had no pollutants released from your site. Revenue can also take the form of your reputation.  How are you and your company perceived by the looks of your construction-site conditions? Again, it is important for you to “Inspect What You Expect.”

Personnel are a very important aspect of business. Management of personnel requires evaluation of performance. It is important to evaluate the number of employees: Do you have enough or do you need additional employees? Do you have the right person in the right position? Are your employees adequately trained? In stormwater, you need to address the following: Who is responsible for writing your SWPPP or erosion and sediment control plan? Who is responsible for implementation of the plan and for providing amendments to the plan? Who does your installations of BMPs, and are they qualified? Who is inspecting your site, and what are their qualifications, and, more importantly, are they protecting you? If you do not know the answer to many of these questions, then it may be time to “Inspect What You Expect.”

Paperwork or documentation is critical in business. It may be needed to track opportunities, to document a process, to record an event, to track revenues and expenses, or to discipline an employee. It is also critical in stormwater management. Do you have all the pertinent documentation filed? Are the pertinent dates and certification signatures in place on the documentation? Is your plan current and do you have all the inspections required documented with a copy in the plan?  Here is another opportunity to “Inspect What You Expect.”

Resources cover many facets of business, including personnel. Resources are those items necessary to produce a product. They include the plan, the personnel, raw materials, equipment, time, money, and management. It is definitely the same when related back to stormwater management.

First of all, do you have an approved plan? Do you have dedicated, qualified personnel for stormwater applications? Do you have such raw materials as blankets, mulch, bags, or rocks for installation as required in the plan? Do you have the equipment or is it available when required for applications of BMPs? Have you allotted enough time for installation and maintenance of BMPs? Have you allocated enough money for stormwater management? And most importantly, is it being managed properly? If you question any of these items, it’s time to “Inspect What You Expect.”

About the Author

Michael Chase

Michael Chase, CPESC, CPSWQ, CESSWI, is president of the IECA Board of Directors.