It may be tempting to let the form-filling, i-dotting and t-crossing lapse when it comes to qualifying your construction quality personnel, but there are many reasons why making the process formal and not relying on your own undocumented knowledge and gut instincts is a very good idea.
Now, before I go over the 5 steps you need to follow for a good personnel qualification process, let me emphasize why you need one.
REASONS TO HAVE A FORMAL QUALIFICATION PROCESS
#1. The experience and knowledge of your personnel has a huge effect on quality. This is easily the most important reason to have a formal personnel qualification process. It’s so important that the ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, puts qualifying personnel on the same level of importance as doing inspections.
When you document personnel qualifications, there are added benefits:
- Reduces risk – Your documentation can be used in court as evidence of due diligence in the event of a lawsuit.
- Often included as part of many project specifications - Military (USACE/NAVFAC) and non-military government agencies as well as private sector project owners require personnel qualifications as part of their QA/QC standards. That means they require formal documentation of those qualifications.
- Sets you apart from your competitors – You’ll be able not just to tell prospective customers that your people are fully qualified, but also show that they are qualified using the documentation that arises from your formal qualification process.
5 STEPS TO ESTABLISHING YOUR PERSONNEL QUALIFICATION PROCESS
1. Identify Positions that need formal qualificationsIf the position affects the quality on your construction project, then you should formalize the qualification for that position. Typically, the following positions should include a formal qualification process:
- Project Manager
- Quality Manager
- Skilled Tradesman
2. List the qualifications necessary for each position
The reason you qualify personnel capabilities is to ensure that they are able to completely carrying out their assigned quality responsibilities. Thus, when you create your list of qualifications, consider the following:
- Demonstrated skills and knowledge
- Required training
- Demonstrated ability/results
- Required experience
- Knowledge of Company quality standards
- Knowledge of job responsibilities and authority
3. Choose proof of qualification
The company should have defined ways to measure all of the predetermined qualifications and include documented proof as part of your formal qualification process.
Demonstrated skills and knowledge can come from a test or evaluation by a knowledgeable person. As proof, you can provide a certificate that they passed. A classic example of a knowledge requirement is the OSHA 30-Hour Course required of the project SSHO (site safety and health officer) on military projects. The certificate awarded as proof of completion of the course must appear in all approved USACE/NAVFAC Quality Control Plans (for information on our USACE/NAVFAC CQC Plans, click here).
Required training may include training you provide as well as industry training for skilled workers such as welders, electricians, plumbers, etc.
Demonstrated ability and results is similar to demonstrated skills and knowledge but may require a longer evaluation period. For example, the set of skills and knowledge required to be a superintendent are not easy to test for. Use your list of responsibilities and authority as a guide and have an experienced superintendent review the results and demonstrated abilities of superintendents. Even if you hire a superintendent with 5 years of prior experience, it’s still a good idea to look at demonstrated abilities and results.
Required experience speaks to the need for a depth of knowledge beyond what you can evaluate or test. This is the information typically found on resumes such as 5 years of experience as a quality manager on projects similar in scope to the project for which he or she is being qualified.
Knowledge of Company quality standards may seem like an unnecessary part of a qualification process. After all, shouldn’t your personnel already know about policies like covering up defects is unacceptable and that everyone is responsible for quality not just senior management? Maybe, but it’s too important to leave unsaid. So, include training on company quality standards as part of your qualification process.
Knowledge of job responsibilities and authority can come from an appointment letter. Below is an example of some of the responsibilities and authority we include in an appointment letter as part of our construction quality control plans. (If you’re interested in learning more about our construction QA/QC plans, click here.) Documented proof of this qualification can come from the superintendent signing that he is capable and competent to carry out the responsibilities and authority as stated.
- Verification that work performed by subcontractors and suppliers and company work crews conforms to company quality standards
- Ensuring that work meets government regulatory and code requirements, customer requirements, contract requirements, contract technical specifications, contract drawings, approved contract submittals, and company quality standards and specifications
- Ensuring that subcontractors and suppliers begin work in accordance with company start-work policies
- Ensuring that subcontractors and suppliers receive a notice to work only when conditions will not adversely affect quality results
- Conducting quality inspections, tests, and recording findings
- Accurately assessing subcontractor quality and on-time performance
- Ensuring that quality standards are achieved before approving subcontractor or work crew completion of work
- Stopping work when continuing work adversely affects quality or covers up a defect
- Prevent the use of equipment or materials that would adversely affect quality or cover up a defect
- To direct the removal and replacement of any non-conforming work, equipment, or material by your company, any subcontractor, or any supplier
- Suspend work and/or supply of materials by any staff member, subcontractor personnel, or supplier as deemed necessary to assure quality results.
4. Evaluate and document your candidate’s qualifications
The first three steps (identify positions, list qualifications, and choose proof) are part of your planning process. Next, you must DO what you planned and evaluate your personnel based on their qualifications.
Keep a record of copies of your personnel qualifications as determined through formal training, certifications, interviews, training by the company, references from prior employers, etc.. All of these should be kept with project documents. Store them for future proof that you did your due diligence in using qualified personnel.
5. Periodically, review your qualification process and make improvements
Check to see if your qualification process is working. Are the training, experience, and skills of your quality personnel enough to produce a quality product? Are there any gaps?
When quality needs improving, look at ways you can improve your qualification process. Were there issues caused by lack of skills or training? Or, was it that you set the bar too low on your qualifications? Another area to consider is whether your evaluation process needs improving.
Remember, the experience and knowledge of your personnel has a huge effect on quality.
Sometimes, depending on the project, you may find a person doesn’t meet all of the qualifications but is qualified to do certain jobs. In that case, you can approve them for a limited scope of work. Provisional approval requires a plan to bring the employee up to full approval based on the qualifications necessary.
PERSONNEL QUALIFICATION IN THE QUALITY PLAN
Your company’s quality manual and the project-specific quality plan you prepare for each construction project needs to include a section on your personnel qualification process. Provide a statement about your process. For instance, regarding training, you might say, “We train our employees on quality standards and procedures based on project requirements as well as their job positions.”
Certifications achieved, documentation of completed training, and of course a full resume of the employee’s work experience, all of this amounts to a fair degree of record-keeping, but it’s well worth it.
DOWNLOAD A PROJECT PERSONNEL QUALIFICATION FORM
Using a Personnel Qualification Form or checklist is a good way to ensure that you’ve evaluated all the qualifications for each member of you quality assurance team. Completed forms are an excellent way to show proof that your qualification process has been followed. If you’d like a copy of our Personnel Qualification Form click here