Project Documentation – Visual including Webcams

LinkedIn Group: Contract Risk Management — Construction Industry

Discussion: Webcams on Projects

Embracing the dynamics of todays technology, McLaughlin and McLaughlin (M&M) actively participates in select LinkedIn Groups.  When one of these groups discusses or addresses a timely, relevant, or vital topic that we feel would be valuable, M&M will offer a blog-discussion with LinkedIn excerpts on that topic. This is not to diminish the LinkedIn group discussion but to further share and stimulate insightful thinking presented in a condensed format.

Although the LinkedIn Contract Risk Management Group is restricted to members, access seems to be easily achieved, and the value of the flow of information by knowledgeable contributors makes membership worthwhile.  Commentary is always robust; thus, I recommend reading the complete string of comments within the Discussion at LinkedIn when possible.  However, for brevity, I have selected excerpts that are “spot-on” when addressing this topic.

This recent Discussion was initiated by Chris Hawkins. Chris posed the following question:

Does anyone have experience with webcams on projects used as a project controls, risk management, claims prosecution/avoidance tool?

I’ve seen situations where this really helps to demonstrate exactly what happened when and where and by whom, and I’ve also seen situations where this really would have helped if it had existed. I’m curious to hear the experiences of others.

In the ensuing commentary, I found particularly valuable insights in the following posts.  The first two selections address the general value and/or endorsements.

Greg Powers •I think it is an invaluable tool during certain periods of the work. When coming out of the ground and before the skin is on a building, it takes many of the perceptions on progress away, and for claims, I always like to bring out the picture that shows that the tower crane had been down for months while they were still charging it as a cost…

L.H. Chin • To succeed in a claim either in arbitration or litigation you will need to establish the facts and to do so you will need all the evidence that you can get to verify or support the facts in your case.

The more evidence you have the stronger is your case and your chances of winning. So yes using a webcam to supplement written documents is a very very convincing tool. I believe if use smartly it can work wonders. Definitely a new way of documenting events at site and how to use it effectively is one of the things that need to be developed by top management.

Switching to the subjects of disclosure and privacy, I offer commentary from several perspectives.

Mischa De Bart • Don’t forget to take up provisions in your agreements in which you make known that these systems are in place. Some privacy issues may arise and can make your imagery useless.

Chris Hawkins • Good point. [Snip]  It is important to check the local law in the area where you are working to avoid any potential headaches.

Regarding planning and an audit trail, the following comments are important:

Tony Donnelly • Most companies have some sort of procedures in place for photographing the work in progress. I have seen webcams used for about 15 years or so and they can be very useful, as Mr. Chin point’s out.

However, it’s vital that some means of recording the exact time and date is incorporated into the image. Otherwise, the images are useless as evidence. Another point to consider is to take the image from the same compass point, or points, at regular intervals. I usually appoint the local photo shop to do the job with professional equipment. It generally costs very little compared to the project values and gives some sort of independent view.

A forward looking perspective was taken when the following question was posed:

Christopher Daly • What if you have web cams enabled with Artificial Intelligent Computer Vision to look for various types of events that would then alert you to problems that later will lead to delays and or litigation?

In this discussion, I added the following thoughts as a “bottom line” summary from my perspective:

George McLaughlin • Webcams and the like have been around for quite a long time. I have experienced their use on several projects over the past several years. [snip]

The images are very compelling if applicable to the point of dispute. This is particularly true if both parties commission (pay for) the service.

They are of limited value on some projects because the points in dispute become hidden or obscured. Hence, a plan to reposition the cam is desirable. [snip] There is a tradeoff between consistency and visibility. The plan for video should address the expected issues. In essence, it should follow your risk management plan.

Match the video to the issues – that is the key for prospective managerial consideration.

As a project/construction/contracts/business manager and similar, it is imperative that you are attentive to documenting your project for many purposes.  Some are useful in real-time managerial actions.  Other requirements include safety and retrospective dispute resolution.  Be attentive to the points discussed above and keep an audit trail of the visual documentation.

Good luck and happy documenting.

It is important to note that McLaughlin and McLaughlin [M&M] is not a law firm and is not intending to provide legal advice.  M&M is a consulting firm providing (among other services) non-legal expertise in dispute resolution and litigation support.  For further information on M&M services, please see