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Bridge Inspectors Adapt to COVID-19 Challenges

Insights blog - Bridge Inspectors Adapt to COVID-19 Challenges - Gannett Fleming.
Author: Dan Kent, Jr., PE, CBSI, Senior Structural Engineer and Bridge Practice Inspection Lead

Safety is our culture and is no accident. This concise statement describes the end goal of our bridge inspection safety program, as well as the means by which we achieve that goal in all aspects of bridge inspection–a proactive, structured process of training, awareness, and procedures. The safety of our staff is our highest priority.

This is especially true in our current environment, where the pandemic presents unforeseen additional health and safety challenges. Can social distancing be accomplished in a manlift or snooper basket? How should we sign documents in the field? We partnered with our corporate safety team to develop clear and concise COVID-19 bridge inspection guidelines, enabling us to keep our inspectors protected, continue to serve our clients, maintain their bridge inspection schedules, and keep our infrastructure safe amid the pandemic. Here are a few highlights of our updated safety plan.

New Guidelines

For local bridge inspections not involving lift equipment, we plan our work to maintain social distancing of 6 feet or more. Our field equipment is cleaned and sanitized every day, and crews do not share tools, cameras, or devices. We also provide field staff with instructions on how to create makeshift field wash stations on site, including a plastic tub, hand soap, paper towels, and clean water supply.

A Heavier Lift

Dealing with ladders, manlifts, bucket trucks and snooper trucks require extra guidelines and precautions. Each ladder is used by a single bridge inspector who “owns” it during this pandemic. Only one person at a time is allowed in a manlift or bucket truck basket—used if no other options are available—and the basket and controls are wiped down before and after every use. When working in areas with limited access, our inspection teams now build-in extra inspection time to enable each inspector to individually use the lifts for access.

We recommend hardhat face shields if two or more people are required to stand closer than 6 feet in snooper baskets, in addition to face masks and wipe-down procedures. Open communication between employees and their managers is key to ensure field workers are comfortable with the potential risks of operating in close proximity, even with personal protective equipment and protocols in place.

Our bridge inspectors also know to request electronic files when signing equipment rental company documents. If employees are required to handle paperwork, they wear gloves or use paper towels as a physical barrier to prevent the spread of germs.

Best Practices In Action

Gannett Fleming’s new COVID-19 best practices are enabling us to keep our inspectors safe and keep bridge inspection schedules advancing. This includes work on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation state Route 65 concrete open spandrel arch bridge in Pittsburgh near McKees Rocks, and more than 50 North Carolina Department of Transportation bridges this spring. Our Ohio Department of Transportation inspection in June will combine safety protocols with manlifts, SPRAT industrial rope access, and drones to perform an element level inspection of the signature Anthony Wayne suspension bridge in Toledo.

At Gannett Fleming, we adhere to a “Safety is in Our Hands” philosophy, in which promoting a safe work environment and protecting human life is our highest priority. We bring this mindset to work with us every day, taking extra precautions in our current environment to serve our clients and keep our staff and their bridges safe.

For more information on our COVID-19 inspection guidelines, corporate bridge inspection services, and drone technologies, contact me at Also watch this American Road & Transportation Builders Association safety video to learn how agencies are similarly preventing the spread of infectious diseases in highway work zones.

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