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It’s Not Rocket Surgery

Maybe you’ve heard this before. Erosion and sediment control are not rocket science (or brain surgery, or rocket surgery, depending on who you are talking to…

Here at DTEC we’ve heard this as a way to justify the use of poorly qualified BMP installers. Project Managers with this view are justifying their choice of the lowest bidder, or the strategy of using temporary laborers to install or maintain Best Management Practices (BMPs).

And yes, installing BMPs is fundamentally easier than brain surgery or rocket science. We agree with that statement. But we strongly disagree with the conclusion that anyone can do it. Our tongue in cheek response is that if anyone can do it, why does everyone seem to fail at it?

OK, we’re not going to win any friends by starting arguments, so let’s be realistic. To be helpful to our builder/developer clients, let’s try to understand the root cause of poor quality installations. What dynamics are really at work when we see poor quality installations or a lack of maintenance or the overuse of some BMP? If it is really not that hard, why are these practices so common? Here are a few possibilities:

Some installers just don’t care enough to do the job right

Clearly, as a temp laborer you have almost no incentive to do good work. You’ll be on to the next project tomorrow, you’ll never see this site again, and more than likely you are being asked to do a job without any training or proper tools. So yeah, the result is that some installers just don’t care enough. Let’s hope it is only temp labor scenarios and not BMP contractors who feel this way. And maybe this applies to more than temp laborers. Could it be that an earth mover who is only going to be on the project for the initial phase has no reason to install control measures that will last more than a few months?

Shortcuts are too tempting

Although BMP installation is not rocket science, it is hard work. Like pick-and-shovel hard, like hours in the sun and dirt, the rain and the mud, hard. Like back in the day when it was miles to school, uphill both directions hard. If an installer is not totally committed to creating a quality installation, then it is very tempting to make the trench a few inches shallower, or to not replace the fence stake that just cracked, or to spend the extra time on the final touches that will make an average installation a great one.

No One Is Checking

Maybe your installer doesn’t have the pride and the mental toughness to finish the job properly, and just maybe they’ve learned that no one calls them out when they fall short of BMP excellence. If the regulator passes a mediocre installation, where’s the incentive to go the extra mile? When the clients don’t seem to notice sloppy work, or think it “looks good enough”then why do more?

Maybe They ARE Meeting Expectations

What if the crew that is delivering below average work is doing exactly what they are asked to do? What if the owner/boss is giving the crew a thumbs up for quantity at the expense of quality? What if the company will make good money next month fixing the failed installations they did this month, why pursue work they can be proud of?

Man, this all sounds very cynical, but really, there are no good excuses for lousy BMPs. If a company is struggling to perform the very work they specialize in, it may be time to make a switch.

The DTEC Way

The flip side of this question (what is the root cause of poor BMP quality?) is a challenge to us at DTEC. How can we prove that quality pays? How do we demonstrate that well trained installers are worth the investment? Challenge accepted. The short answer is that our work should speak for itself. If you want to see installations that work as designed, that last longer than you’ve come to expect, and that reduce maintenance costs, please give us a try. We even offer a one year warranty against silt fence failure on our D-Fence product because we just that confident in our work. 

Installing control measures the DTEC way may not be rocket surgery, but we care enough to get it right so you can focus on your core project without the distraction of constant maintenance and lengthy stormwater inspection reports. 

 More perspective on the quality versus price discussion can be found in these previous posts that address the Total Cost of Ownership (Feb. 3, 2017), The Hidden Cost of Maintenance (Feb. 1, 2017), or When the Low Bid Costs More (Nov. 12, 2018).

We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject, so give us a call or add a comment to any of these posts. Thanks for reading. 

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