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Special Inspections Standard of Care

Special Inspections Standard of Care

Special Inspections Standard of Care

I've been a special inspector and construction engineering project manager for about 14 years. I've struggled in my career because of the thoroughness of my inspections. The contractors don't like it and don't want me to put deviations in my reports. The contractors perception is the deviations make them look bad to the project owner. The contractors a lot of times directly ask me not to list the inspections in my reports.

What I've encountered is, the special inspection/geotechnical firms keep business coming in, or increase their volume of work, by building relationships with the contractors. They sweep deviations under the rug by not listing them in the reports. Entire projects are inspected with very few or no deviations. The contractors in a lot of cases have first contact with the owner before the special inspection firm does, and typically recommend a special inspection firm to the owner. If a special inspection firm was easy to work with (i.e. if they weren't too hard on them), the contractor will recommend them to the owner.

For example, at my previous company, I went and did a wood framing inspection for an apartment building for another project manager. There were nails missing, clips missing, blocking missing, anchor bolts missing, they used smaller nails than required, etc. As I was telling the project superintendent about this stuff, he asks me "are you going to put this in your report". I said "yes". He said "you can't do that, your going to make my company look bad". I said "well it would be unethical not to. He said, "He didn't have any issues until you came out here". I sent my report out with the deviation in it anyway then I looked at the previous inspections reports done by the special inspection project manager (who is a PE). They had no deviations in them. He had just been passing the inspections with all this stuff missing. I was later terminated by this company due to contractor complaints. There was some "head butting" between me and management because they wanted me to building relationships with contractors to increase work volume. The company's marketing strategy was built around this, this was supposedly a large reputable company.

I'm running into this same thing at my current company. There was a situation were the project manager (at PE) marked my reports as mailed because they had deviations in them and he was buddies with the contractor who was going to give him the next project. There was another situation where a contractor asked another project manager to not send me back to the project site, and the company complied with his request. The division manager called me up and asked me about the situation and I told him that contractors don't want me to list the deviations in my reports, they want me to sweep them under the rug for them. He said, "your just taking it that way, they are not asking you to do that". In response, I said "Well, if they are asking me to not list the deviations in my report, or not send my report to the owner, what else does that mean". He response was "you are too black and white, don't list the deviations in your report and just recheck them the next time your at the site". But what I'm not the inspector that goes to the site the next time?

I'm very through in my inspections and compare my observations to the project design plans and specifications. The way I see it, I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I've previously filed a couple of board complaints and ended up getting blacklisted, and the board didn't issue any charges, they sent me a letter each time saying that my complaints were unfounded. That's part of the reason I got terminated from my last company, the previous company call them and told them I turned in the last two companies I worked for. I had to move to another state and start over, and now the same thing is happening again. I'm never filing another board complaint again. They won't do anything anyway and I'll just get blacklisted again.

There's a big conflict of interest going on in this business and people who cut corners are the ones who are successful. It turns out that following plans and specifications is not how it works in the real world, it just whats on paper. I've been struggling with this for years now and I'm kind of fed up. I'm looking for some advice on what I could do differently if I choose to stay in this business. I feel that if I "just pass everything", I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. I have a conscience and if I didn't list a deviation in a report, I would feel like a liar. But a lot of other people don't seem to lose sleep over it and are successful.

RE: Special Inspections Standard of Care

The only solution seems to be to convince owners to hire the inspection firm directly. In that case finding more errors would actually a thing to brag about to potential new clients.

RE: Special Inspections Standard of Care

EnergyProfessional - that's how it's supposed to work now. But as Mr Inspector said - they hire the inspection firm based on the recommendation of the contractor.

Here are my thoughts: when you find a problem, do you offer to stay for a few minutes while they fix it, or do you just say it's bad and leave? When I have an inspection on my schedule, I plan for at least 30 minutes to an hour - even if I know it's a 10 minute inspection. I also tell the contractor to make sure the trade in question is on site to fix anything in question. If it's too big, then we either work out a time for me to come back and look at (it'll take 3 hours so I circle back around toward the end of the day or make it a stop first thing in the morning) and verify it was fixed. That way I know it was fixed and the contractor doesn't get a black mark. If they do it too often, though, I'll start putting it in official reports and charging the owner for extra inspection time. There's a balance that I think can be struck without compromising my ethical standing in the matter. As long as the contractor isn't using me as his own personal QC department, we can get along.

Some of what you described there is questionable from a legal perspective. If firms were spreading the word that you shouldn't be hired, that's potentially illegal. (If they were providing references as part of a job application, that's a little different.)

Whether or not something has been built properly is usually pretty black or white, but the skills we use to interact with the owner, contractors, building authority, etc. include several more subtle shades of gray. The trick is to keep people happy while ensuring the safety of the public is maintained.

Here's an idea about you not being the next one to inspect - keep a project notebook/note file (whatever would be analogous in your company's document management) that everyone updates with field notes for a given project. You then use those field notes to write the official reports. That way, you can say "inspected X on this date, was found unacceptable due to Y, it was corrected on that date by doing Z." You've informed the owner of the problem and the solution at the same time - you're proving your worth while also not diminishing the contractor in a significant way.

RE: Special Inspections Standard of Care

Mr. Inspector....I applaud your integrity. Keep it up. You're fighting an age-old battle...contractor's inspection agency vs. owner's inspection agency. They should be the same but they're not.

Owner education is the key, but it's a hard task....start with the Architects and Design Engineers. Recommend that their specifications state that the inspection agency will be paid by the owner, not the contractor.

In my state we have two definitions of a special inspector. The first and the longest held is a Special Inspector of Threshold Level Buildings where certain buildings must be inspected by a specially qualified engineer or architect. The second is the typical definition of a special inspector contained in the International Building Code. In the first, it is our state law that the special inspector must be hired by the owner. In the second, they can be hired by anyone.

I would like to see a code requirement that all inspections and tests must be payed directly by the owner, not the contractor.

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