Erosion and Sediment Control
The Art of Reporting: Documenting Site Conditions
In the modern world, we are all inundated daily with information. Emails, texts, and social media can consume our days, and we all can be guilty of adopting the shorthand of the modern world to convey information. When this translates to insufficient information in the realm of the stormwater or erosion and sediment control compliance report, it can limit success during every phase of the construction process. This also can contribute to breakdowns in communication that often lead to violations and enforcement.
Regulatory reports, self-inspections and third-party consultant reports all require the same components in order to be accurate and helpful, even though they differ in their origination and process. Reports must be thorough, detailed yet succinct, convey accurate location or geographic information, utilize correct construction and erosion and sediment control terms, be professional, and above all, be usable by the construction staff and repair crews that will complete the physical repairs.
How can a report be all of these things at once? How can any of us have time to hit all of these benchmarks when the storms keep coming and the industry is booming? Quite frankly, because we must. As inspectors, we are the identifiers of problems, the anticipators of future issues, the conveyors of information and often, the first pair of boots to find an impact after the storm. We are all trained to find the problems, to understand the plans, and to know the regulations, but how often do any of us talk about the reporting? This crucial step isn't a glamorous part of the process for sure, but shining a light on writing a truly information report could be an opportunity to make all of us better communicators in this field.
The report starts and ends with each of us. We walk the sites, take notes, voice recordings, photos and end each day hot, cold, muddy, dusty and ready to be done. Some may feel the most important work is done, but after many years of writing and receiving reports from every venue, I would argue that a well-written report is just as important as the thoroughness of the inspection. If we can't convey the information we've gathered in a way that supports and advances compliance, what was the point of the inspection? To cover a forty acre project then send a report with generalities like 'repair silt fence', even when accompanied by a photo, only causes confusion and frustration for the recipients, as well as slows down the compliance process.
In this fireside chat, we will cover the do's and don'ts of writing a successful report, including examples, proper language, utilizing the plans and current technology to provide location data, and how some commonly used terms can actually work against the inspector's goals. We will discuss similarities and differences in the needs and goals of regulatory inspections, self inspections and third-party consultant reporting. Also, we will include information about the liability of conveying inaccurate information, and the importance of properly trained and highly qualified inspectors at all levels of the industry. We plan to have representatives at the table from the county, city and state level of inspections, as well as the private sector, including a representative that receives both consultant and regulatory reports on a regular basis. Providing information and feedback on how these reports can help or hinder compliance efforts could help other inspectors to raise their own report-writing bar.