May 25, 2008

Safety Policy with

Government engineering consulting contracts can be very lucrative, but don’t think that they don’t have their associated costs. For most small structural engineering companies a safety policy is less than 10 pages and focuses on the things that really matter. Office ergonomics, tie-off systems for high rise connection inspections, construction personal protective equipment, and the like are easy to teach a co-op student or a fresh graduate, or to retrain to a seasoned engineer. Unfortunately if your company wants to start playing in the big leagues a well detailed safety policy is a must.

After a couple hours of research I discovered our company had three options. The first option was to sign up for roughly 10 safety training courses, and to spend about a week reading through the provincial safety act to craft our health and safety policy. The second option was to pay someone else to do this for us. The third was to use a system offered by, Note: I have received no incentive to write this post from the good people at Safe Worker. The first option was more or less ruled out due to the cost and time of the operation. The second option was attractive, because it cut down on both the cost and time of developing a safety policy, but it limited further expansion, so it was deemed acceptable but not attractive. The third option is what our company ended up going with.

We have no regrets. At roughly $500, the system is more than I could have asked for. It has a plethora of circumstance where one may need to be safety trained. It automatically makes slideshows and presentations so that your workers can be trained all at once. It makes manuals and check-off sheets and is really quite a polished product. The language is written so clearly a factory worker with an IQ of 80 could easily understand it. I would even recommend this to an engineering company that already has a safety policy. I only have two small suggestions.

The first suggestion: I would have included more regional specific documents. By trying to make the system compatible for any construction or manufacturing related company in the world some documents are written in general terms. Meaning the safety officer of the company will manually have to enter in things like WHIMIS where the stock sheets are less specific. I also hope the system will include lists of hazardous materials sheets to cut down on the amount of time it takes to assemble these from our current books.

The second suggestion: I would have made multiple portals once you log in. For example, as an engineering company we should have a set template of the most important documents for our employees. We would be less concerned about proper maintenance of tools and more concerned about overhead hazards.

Those two suggestions aside, I think that this is probably the best $500 our company has ever spent. It gave us an overriding safety policy that exceeds government standards. I highly recommend it to any small, growing engineering company. Actually, I would recommend it for any construction related company period.

May 18, 2008

Optimizing Multi Bridge Inspection and Other Traveling Situations

Part of assembling a bridge tender proposal for the City of Halton required a visit to 42 bridges in the area, in order to assemble an acceptable proposal for inspection/conditional remediation schedules of the City’s bridges and culverts. The more aged the bridge the more frequent the proposed inspection to the City. In the end we decided that the contract was beyond our abilities, but while considering it we realized that this type of assignment was the quintessential “traveling salesmen” problem. Fortunately with today’s computing power this is not quite the problem it once was.

With a quick Google query I came across a website called which solves the “traveling salesman” problem quite readily. While limited to 20 locations, it drastically improves any route I would have come up with during a 10 minute paper and pen planning exercise. The uses of this application in a consulting engineering office are not limited to bridges, of course, but all sorts of projects. Eight structural inspections planned for the day? Optimally solved. As-built drawings to deliver to 15 clients? Solved. Quite a useful tool that will not only improve productivity, but will also cut down on those pesky mileage payments.