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After an elevator went into freefall in Atlanta in August 2021, killing one man, it was found that the elevator in question was long overdue for an inspection because, across the state, many had not been inspected in 2020 due to COVID-related delays. 

Squeezed on two major fronts – a skilled labor shortage of industry-shaking proportions and a pandemic that sidelined employees through work stoppage, illness or furlough – both private companies and government bodies are scrambling to tackle the growing backlog of required government inspections.

And as more inspections are delayed, worrying scenarios are emerging across the country, regardless of sector or state. Rockland County in California imposed a 30-day moratorium on building permits because of a backlog of more than 800 buildings that have gone uninspected for years for fire and building code compliance. Michigan has admitted to being years behind on required inspections for elevators, escalators and boilers, with some sites waiting years for required follow-up inspections even after safety deficiencies were found

As backlogs increase, the chance that safety issues crop up increases exponentially. If gone unchecked, governments run the risk of disaster-level events like the Flint water crisis and the Surfside condo collapse – both preventable had a better, more efficient inspection system been in place.

Digital inspection platforms specifically designed to streamline the inspection process are emerging as the best way to address this backlog and do so in a way that improves overall safety across the board. Let’s look at some of the major ways that digital inspections can improve the inspection process and avoid its potentially harmful backlog. 

Keep track

Failing to understand the massive breadth of their inspection activities, governments of all sizes often lose track of what has been done and what needs to be done to ensure that all safety requirements are met. In fact, following the previously mentioned elevator tragedy, the State of Georgia admitted it had no idea how many elevators were actually overdue for inspections.

If municipalities don't know which items have and haven't been inspected, safety incidents and accidents won’t just spill through the cracks – they will break the dam, leaving physical injury, property damage and lawsuits in their wake. 

Keeping track of the full array of inspections and remediations requires digital tools that transcend the limitations of outdated and inefficient paper systems. Real-time, cloud-based and shared information can be easily collected to let governing bodies know what needs to be inspected when and how. 

Overcome labor challenges 

Labor shortages will be the norm for the foreseeable future, bringing with it all the challenges of deploying an inexperienced or contractor workforce, most apparent in knowledge gaps. 

Digital checklists can bridge these gaps by providing workers, including inspectors, with tightly organized sets of descriptions and reference materials at the point of use. Checklists can include visual reference photos to guide inspections and ensure the proper specifications are met. Dropdown menus expand to ask inspectors checking for equipment or site safety for more detail or hide extraneous fields to make their work easier and still ensure compliance.  

When digital inspection checklists are tailored to what is necessary, it leaves little room for error and makes it easier for less experienced or re-skilling employees to do their jobs and capture valuable safety data. 

Oversight from home office

Without proper visibility, safety concerns remain hidden and can quickly morph into more dangerous issues. So, with a wealth of reliable and real-time data collected from field teams across projects and sites, digital platforms afford managers in the home office unprecedented visibility across the entire inspection process.

Full access to richer data lets you see the big picture and gives you greater oversight to monitor inspection progress on any number of sites. And full connectivity means that supervisors can review the work remotely and in real-time, assuring the integrity of the inspection process and facilitating timely remediation.

This 360-degree view emerging from digital checklists helps you better allocate resources, while still complying with safety measures and ensuring the full rigor of your processes.

Share data with stakeholders

From inspectors to project managers, remediation teams to subcontractors, there are many stakeholders involved in government inspections. Safety inspection platforms like Fulcrum are premised on making data highly accessible. And when every stakeholder has real-time access to and works from the same database of reliable data, you bridge information gaps that lead to costly time delays. 

By consolidating a wide range of quality specifications and SOPs with inspection data and workflows, you create a single pane of glass for all stakeholders. Once consolidated, digital tools excel at on-demand reporting of quality-related data into a report format and schedule of your choosing, whenever you need them.

Digital checklists fortify the inspection process with an agility to efficiently track and share all the data required for its sound and effective execution, regardless of scope or reporting demand, to any stakeholder, at any time.

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Triage and prioritize critical work

Be it from knowledge gaps or lower quality work, whenever potential safety incidents arise, the faster and more you know about an incident, the better you can respond. 

The cloud-based, real-time synchronization of digital platforms ensures your data is always available at any stage of the inspection or distribution process. And features like real-time notifications and automated processes then make remediation needs instantly prioritizable. 

Communication lines between HQ and the field should always be open. When you’re able to instantly share updated data, you are better positioned to adapt to any safety situation and to reliably prioritize issues with data-driven decisions so that potential roadblocks or hazards can be remediated on the spot.

Streamline workflows

Digital platforms connect your entire team across tasks and sites, working from the same data through the devices in their pockets. This creates a smooth, interlocking web of workflows, regardless of scope, that can all be managed with an ease and visibility no matter how granular or complex the task. 

The power of digital platforms to streamline workflows with tailored checklists, visual reference material, and notifications and alerts translates into unprecedented agility. In addition, managers can quickly assign inspections and follow-up tasks on the fly, while enhancing the critical oversight needed to effectively track teams and progress, and then adjust accordingly if necessary. An agile, responsive tool creates agile, responsive teams. 

Eliminate backlog for good

Digital field inspection checklists are the most powerful tool in the inspection arsenal. Quickly and reliably, they streamline the inspection process, make reporting and proving compliance easier, keep track of ongoing and expected work, and manage follow-up activities due to any discovered issues during inspections. 

A digital checklist platform like Fulcrum, specifically designed with inspections in mind, will modernize your inspection process so that your backlog first shrinks, then disappears. With Intelligent Team Automation, full inspection program visibility, and dashboards that bring together key stakeholders around real-time data and insights, you can finally have a single-paned inspection strategy across any number of teams, sites, and jurisdictions .

Learn how deploying Intelligent Team Automation (ITA) with Fulcrum can reduce your inspection backlog.

About the author

Fulcrum is a field inspection management platform built to streamline safety and quality processes, field operations, and asset inspections, especially for mobile teams.

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