ALS News: Guardpost: When Was the Last Time You Conducted a Field Inspection, or Reviewed Field Notes?

Jacques Dupuis, ALS

If you can’t remember the last time you conducted a field inspection, you are not alone. If you are not reviewing field notes on every job, you are part of the minority. Regular field inspections and field note review are essential roles for an Alberta Land Surveyor. The pandemic introduced social distancing, work from home, and the now standard Zoom call. Many practitioners were not able to get out into the field for two years because of these restrictions, and the efforts to resume this key practice have not returned.
When practitioners are asked why field inspections are not getting done, some common answers to the Director of Practice Review (DPR) are that they are too busy, the field crew is very experienced, the technical staff is thorough, or the field crews are too remote. Time and time again, the Practice Review Board (PRB) reviews a file where the ALS finds it necessary to do a field inspection on survey evidence to answer the DPR’s questions. If the evidence assessment was correct before the plan was signed, this additional trip would not be warranted and additional costs would be avoided.
So how often should the ALS be in the field? The short answer is as often as is required. Many firms have a policy requiring their land surveyors and project managers to make a field visit at a minimum of every quarter. There are also situations where a field visit may be warranted outside of those that are scheduled. These situations may include re-establishments, double postings, or other evidence issues that require a professional opinion in the field. I have found there is no better way to teach the art of digging for evidence than to do it in person.
From the professional standpoint the quarterly field visit allows the ALS to observe the field crews survey procedures, evidence assessment, field note entry, and to identify what may have been overlooked. From a safety standpoint it fulfills the requirements of a certificate of recognition (COR) when a safety inspection is conducted at the same time.
One of the best reasons for a field inspection is to make a personal connection with the field crew. It is appreciated when you make the time for them, especially if you can buy them a meal, or even bring donuts and coffee. Many field staff are remote and do not interact on a personal basis with office staff and many have never met the ALS they are working for. In these times of staff shortages, it is vital that all employees feel part of the team. Taking the time to establish the personal connection will open up the lines of communication that will make that evidence assessment call to you much easier.
A key issue on many files is evidence assessment. Evidence assessment is not the job of a field crew. They collect information to enable us to assess it. For them to collect the information we need, it is important that we work closely with them to ensure they know what to collect. Does your firm have proper evidence assessment forms? Do you have documented procedures for re-establishments, including site pictures, and discussion with the ALS before the replacement post is planted? All these items are the responsibility of the land surveyor and not the technical staff.
For those land surveyors who do their own field work, the PRB often encounters sparse field notes. The ability to remember what was encountered during the survey diminishes with time and does not provide the necessary documentation to support the work. Conduct your own surveys as if you are not the ALS signing the plan. Anything that is not directly in the notes should not be on the plan.
It is your responsibility to review all field notes on the projects you are supervising. If you require any evidence forms, please contact the DPR for more information.
The last few years have been disruptive to our businesses and our personal lives. The many procedures we relied on to ensure our professional requirements were being met have fallen by the wayside. It is time make field inspections and field note review a habit, not an exception. Your personal development, your practice, the public, and your profession will benefit.
The purpose of this article is purely educational. Opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily of the Practice Review Board.