A Day in the Life of a Field Inspector

DSCN4794Marc Smith pictured his career as a civil engineering technician a little differently than he is currently spending it. Instead of working at a desk, Marc spends 4 out of 5 days a week in thigh-high rubber boots wielding a machete through the culverts of ODOT’s District 8. As part of LJB’s multi-county culvert inventory and data collection contract with ODOT, Marc is responsible for inspecting every culvert in the district. To date, he has completed 1,300 inspections and gone inside more than 500 culvert tunnels throughout Preble, Greene, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, Warren, and Butler counties.

“Marc has been a true champion of this project and a real leader in not only performing and coordinating the field work, but also helping me manage aspects of the project,” said Dan Springer, LJB’s project manager. “His positive attitude and willingness to take on the sometimes grueling field work shows how he contributes to the service culture at LJB.”

To learn more about how Marc spends his days, read on.

What do you look for during an inspection?

I figure out the components of the pipes. Does it have a head wall? How long is it? What material is it? Then if possible I do an inspection. Are there cracks? Is it blocked at the inlet or the outlet? Is it full of water? Is it failed or broken? I rate the components, based on ODOT standards.

What are some of the different conditions you’ve experienced?

I’m like the post office. I’ve done inspections in all kinds of weather. It’s actually easier in the cold. There are fewer bugs and it’s more comfortable with all the gear. But mostly, there are no bugs.

What tools do you use?

I have a backpack with sounding hammer, thigh-high rubber boots, a safety vest, a tape measure, flash lights, a camera, and a machete. The machete is really how you get where you need to go, since there is usually a lot of brush to clear. The culverts are mostly on the side of the road and 40 feet down. There are trees, vines and all sorts of foliage. You have to hack your way through a lot of times. It’s kind of fun though. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

What are some interesting things that have happened during the inspections?

I came pretty close to a raccoon once and that really spooked me. It was in a manhole and it was cornered. I pretty much just turned and ran out of the pipe. The pipe was only 48 inches high and I’m six feet tall. I was already crouching and then I was trying to run… with a machete… in the dark. My hard hat was dragging along the top of pipe as I ran.

I’ve also done a lot of swimming, more times than I want to admit.

What’s the weirdest thing you have found?spider1

Skeletons! Animal skeletons, I mean. Typically there are lots of bones and trash. Unfortunately, one thing I haven’t found is money or jewels.

What’s your least favorite thing about the project?

The bugs! The Midwest garden spiders—the black and yellow ones. They are HUGE and they love to hang out at the end of culverts. They look like they could kill you, but they aren’t dangerous to humans. Oh my god, I hate those things! But other than the bugs, there’s really nothing that bothers me. I like being out there and seeing different things. I feel like I’m doing a service for the public and trying to help keep the roads safe.


  1. How about snakes? Do you like snakes?

  2. Raccoons always make it interesting! Especially when you are on the outside listening to someone run thought the pipe!!!

  3. Andrea Pakulski says:

    You have the craziest job out of anyone!! I loved reading this.

  4. escottljb says:

    Good looking out, Marc – thanks for all you do! — Evan

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