Highway safety inspection policy

Last updated: 4 July 2023

Minimum safety inspection frequencies

Minimum frequencies for safety inspections of individual network sections are based upon the Carriageway Maintenance Hierarchy adopted by the Council, which considers:

  • road category
  • traffic use, characteristics and trends
  • characteristics of adjoining network elements
  • wider policy or operational considerations.

Although the road category within the hierarchy, in combination with traffic use, will be the main determinant of inspection frequency, site specific factors may merit a decision to temporarily or permanently increase the frequency in a specific location (for example to mitigate the risk of unusually high defect levels or accident rates). Any such change to the inspection frequency of any route where it deviates from the determination within the Carriageway Maintenance Hierarchy will be recorded within the management system.

Inspection frequencies are based on recommendations contained within Well‐managed Highway Infrastructure and BC’s general and historic experience that they are at least sufficient for their respective hierarchy category. These frequencies take into account the asset, its position in the hierarchy and a comparison with similar authorities.

Inspections may be rescheduled within two weeks of their due date to account for exceptional circumstances such as staff sickness or extreme weather events, subject to approval by the Head of Highways. In addition, the Head of Highways may also authorise an extension of the annual inspection interval by up to three months to better synchronise inspections to create a more efficient and effective inspection regime. Any departure must be recorded in the system.

Inspections are driven except in circumstances where defects on footways or cycleways cannot be observed from a slow‐moving vehicle, in which case inspections shall be carried out on foot from the safety of the footway. Inspections of certain minor roads, remote footways and cycle trails shall be walked or cycled.

Tables 1 to 3 detail the safety inspection frequencies which are to be adopted.

Table 1: safety inspection frequencies for carriageways

Carriageway hierarchy classification Minimum frequency of safety inspection Hierarchy category


Not currently used

Motorways and equivalent roads



Strategic road: most heavily trafficked A roads providing routes for long distance traffic



Main distributor road: other heavily trafficked A roads providing routes between strategic roads and linking urban centres



Secondary distributor road: lightly trafficked A roads, B roads, heavily trafficked C roads and traffic‐sensitive bus routes linking the larger villages and HGV generators to strategic and main distributor roads



Local link road: other C roads and non‐traffic‐sensitive bus routes linking smaller villages and industrial areas to distributor roads



Local access road: providing local access to small settlements and urban estates

If a road falling within one hierarchy category has some particular feature, such as an unusually high volume of traffic, or the character of the road has changed (for example, if a new supermarket has opened) it can be upgraded (or downgraded) as reasonable.

A key principle employed in assigning the top 3 hierarchy categories was to develop continuous and contiguous routes of carriageways that had the same hierarchy category. Therefore, a route‐based approach was taken in assigning hierarchy categories to ensure the functionality of the route and its component carriageways were properly reflected. Relevant local intelligence was reflected in finalising which road fell into each hierarchy category. Categorisation of roads remains subject to review at appropriate intervals.

Table 2: safety inspection frequencies for footways

Footway hierarchy classification Minimum frequency of safety inspection Hierarchy category



Primary walking route



Secondary walking routes and safer routes to school



Linked footway



Local access footway



Rural footways



Low-use remote footways

Table 3: safety inspection frequencies for cycleways

Cycleway hierarchy classification Minimum frequency of safety inspection Hierarchy category


As per carriageway frequency

Cycle lane, contiguous with the carriageway



Cycle track, which are the responsibility of the highway authority to maintain

Dedicated cycleway: a route for cyclists and pedestrian not adjacent to an existing carriageway or footway


As per footway

Shared cycleway/footway, either segregated by a white line or other feature, or unsegregated



Cycle trails: leisure routes through open spaces which are the responsibility of the highway authority to maintain

Safety inspections

Safety inspections are carried out either from a slow‐moving vehicle or in some cases, on foot. Clear guidance is provided to Inspectors setting out the circumstances in which an inspection can be safely carried out on foot. The inspector must record those instances when the inspection was carried out on foot.

Tables 1 to 3 define the minimum frequency at which inspections will be undertaken. Additional inspections may be planned in response to user or community concern, requirements for monitoring of structural concerns, as a result of incidents or in response to extreme weather conditions.

Inspections from vehicles will generally be carried out using a 2‐person team (Driver and Inspector) using a vehicle with high visibility markings. However, flexibility in the execution of a safety inspection is allowed in accordance with the approved Method Statement. The inspection vehicle will be equipped with tools and materials for attending and making safe any defect where it is practicable and safe to do so at the time of defect identification. Examples of materials and equipment which the inspectors may carry are as follows:

  • traffic management signs and cones
  • temporary pedestrian barrier
  • loppers for cutting back vegetation
  • small tools for repairs to sign brackets etc.
  • tape for securing lighting columns or posts
  • brush and shovel for removal of debris

It should be recognised that inspectors will only undertake immediate works where it is safe and practicable to do so and following the completion of a site‐specific risk assessment. Clear guidance is provided to Inspectors setting out the circumstances in which a defect can be made safe without risk to the inspector.

Defects will be recorded at the time of identification and transferred to the Asset Management System on the same day as the inspection takes place.