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Structural Special Inspections, Compliance or Complacence

Structural Special Inspections, Compliance or Complacence

(OP)
I have recently taking some work for a testing lab as a contract employee. I have been performing visual inspections of welds and doing so for years. This however has been my first venture into IBC 2012 related inspections.

At 1st, I was just told to "go do a visual" on completed welds. Well, that led me to believe that maybe I had just by chance found a couple of projects in which the contractors had no clue regarding weld quality. Now that I have been doing it a couple of months, I have experienced feedback indicating that actually "inspecting" welds in the past was performed using different methods than I employ. Smoke on the paint, verifying the weld is THERE, etc.. vs. actually measuring and inspecting all of the visible attributes of the weld.

On my 1st jobs, I noticed the "special inspection" tables and made assumptions that there was some other organization doing that and that the contractor just wanted to make sure the visual appearances were per the AWS D1.1. I later came to learn that I was working for a lab, hired by a geo contractor, hired by the contractor to perform "special inspections".

Now based upon my limited experience, it appears as far as structural steel inspections of bolting and welding go, very few projects have the coverage performed as stated on the schedule of special inspections. Now, I try to always state that I only looked at the final appearance of welds and did not participate in any inspections/verification of inspections prior to or during welding. The whole group of operations seems to be somewhat of a farce as far as compliance goes yet it has been in place for some time by my understanding here in Tennessee. But even regardless of "how long", Owners, Designers, and Contractors surely see the requirements, yet I come across projects with horrendous weld quality, missed bolts, no proper WPS/WPQ documentation (outside of my scope but I still ask sometimes).

It is my understanding that the IBC code is referred to by many jurisdictions including the ones I have worked in. Yet it seems that when I go do my job as an inspector and actually document welds not meeting the applicable criteria, its a suprise. I have been warned on more than one occasion about "opening a can of worms". A strange concern for an organization involved in inspections. Not to mention the fact that many preliminary or in-process inspections are never completed.

1) Is the entire system just something that was put in place and never followed up or monitored.
2) Do inspectors and engineers feel that their presence on the job site without actually looking at everything that is required is suitable.
3) Do AISC contractors not ever perform their own QC and just depend on what the "inspector finds"?
4) Am I just experiencing a very limited sector of the country in which a "new" system has just been slow to become normal or is it like this elsewhere.
5) Is there a market for organizations that strive to comply 100% with the documented requirements or are industries fully satisfied with the all powerful "certified" signature of an individual and his/her credentials with no regard for what really happens in the field.

Thanks in advance for any comments made related to the topic. It is possible that my experience is extremely limited so forgive me for any extreme observations.
As I read more about the IBC/AISC360 requirements, I become more prone to separate myself from anything related to it. I had considered performing special inspections as a service offered by my company once I get it started however, if I don't holster the can opener, my reputation may prevent that from being a profitable industry sector for my company....and maybe thats a good thing.

Have a great day and thank you again from Northeast Tennessee.

RE: Structural Special Inspections, Compliance or Complacence

1) Is the entire system just something that was put in place and never followed up or monitored.
In many larger cities the special inspections are mandated and managed well, I think. In smaller population centers, or rural areas, the local jurisdictions may not emphasize the Sp. inspections even though it is "in the code". So it varies.

2) Do inspectors and engineers feel that their presence on the job site without actually looking at everything that is required is suitable.
I think most inspectors, if hired, try to do a good job. Like anything else in this world, there are bad apples.

3) Do AISC contractors not ever perform their own QC and just depend on what the "inspector finds"?
I think to keep their AISC certification, fabrication shops must keep their QC/QA activities up to speed and are perhaps annually checked on by AISC certifiers. I'm not expert in this so this could be wrong.

4) Am I just experiencing a very limited sector of the country in which a "new" system has just been slow to become normal or is it like this elsewhere.
You might be - if it is not "in the culture" of your regional construction industry, crossing every "T" and dotting every "i" of the special inspection requirements of the IBC may not be occurring.

5) Is there a market for organizations that strive to comply 100% with the documented requirements or are industries fully satisfied with the all powerful "certified" signature of an individual and his/her credentials with no regard for what really happens in the field.
Market analysis for your area would be needed as I do believe this is a very regional thing. Perhaps talk to several city permit personnel and/or steel fabrication shops?

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RE: Structural Special Inspections, Compliance or Complacence

Soapbox time....

This is part of an overall decline in quality of what we as design professionals, architects, contractors and QA/QC processes have participated in for the past 25 or so years. Unfortunately, we are all to blame. As design professionals, we have allowed our quality requirements to dwindle in specifications, we delegate too many functions to others without appropriate controls and follow-up and participate in a distinct lack of mentoring in the professional design and construction processes....all of which have created a level of ignorance in younger engineers, architects and contractors that is alarming at least, and moreso, deplorable. Just read some of the posts.

Further, we have owners, developers and other deciders (including architects) who are only concerned about the price of professional services they engage, with little or no attention given to qualifications based selection. As engineers, we participate in the decline of our profession by "bidding" for professional services. Our services are worth something to any project on which we work. We have educational and experience requirements for licensing that demand a certain level of professionalism, expertise and responsibility. We can watch all of that fly out the window when the owner says "Your price is too high....cut it or I'll go somewhere else". The problem is not us....it is that next engineer, designer, architect, testing lab or other who gets called and says "Sure...I'll do it for that".

The same is true of QA/QC groups, historically associated with geotechnical and materials engineering firms. That's how they started...."Geotechnical Engineers and Construction Materials Engineers". It has evolved into testing labs with a rotating cadre of engineering technicians who are often not in the game for the long haul....and in some cases rightly so because of the depressed pay scales....brought about by....you guessed it....the other testing lab that said "Sure....I'll do it for that". That leads to poor training, lack of the pursuit of technician certifications (AWS CWI, ASNT Levels I, II and III, ASCET Levels I,II,III and IV, ACI Levels I, II and III, etc.) and no capability for advancement....so there is significant turnover.

When there is a breach of any reasonable protocol for inspection or testing, that should be pointed out. If the last technician did a crappy job and let things go, it is not license for a good technician who follows him to do the same. You might not want to point it out to those outside your company, but you sure as hell should point it out to an engineer within the company, particularly the one who has responsible charge for the inspection/testing process.

I have abbreviated my diatribe, but could probably write an unflattering booklet on this subject. I have purposely not mentioned the contractors...that's a subject for another day or days! I did so to save the sanity of my fellow Eng-Tippers...since I have none left on this subject!lol

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