NWCEL Northwest Council of Engineering Labs

Become a
Special Inspector

›› Introduction
›› License Types
›› Types of Work


Inspection Courses

Reinforced Concrete:
›› Placement/Batch Plant
›› Reinforced Concrete
›› Pre/Post-Tension
›› Shotcrete Intro.
›› Shotcrete Recert.

Steel & Welding:

›› Steel & Welding I
›› Steel & Welding II
›› Steel & Welding Intensive

Masonry Inspection

Ultrasonic Technician
›› Certification Program

Magnetic Particle Testing Level II

Special Inspector Certification Renewal

Lateral Framing Special Inspection

Proprietary Anchors Inspection

Plan Reading

›› In-Place Density
›› Aggregate
›› Asphalt II

Types of Work

In addition to field personnel, testing laboratories must maintain a strong staff of laboratory, office, and support personnel. Pick-up drivers are employed to drive from site-to-site to gather test specimens made by field inspectors. Laboratory technicians are necessary to login, store and break concrete test cylinders, as well as complete dozens of tests on soil, aggregate, and asphalt. Laboratory Technicians have additional certification requirements; see the ACI Website for more details. In the office, dispatchers take phone calls from contractors requesting inspections and allocate the available personnel to perform the work based on availability, licensing, and experience. There are often clerical tasks as well, from billing and mailing, to data entry and coordination of license renewals, testing, and coursework.

IMG_3241 The most senior special inspection personnel, those who have accumulated the most licenses and have the greatest project experience generally move into positions of management. Field Supervisors and Technical Directors are WABO licensed personnel who are qualified to provide technical guidance and ensure competence of field personnel. Field supervisors must have five years experience as special inspectors and supervise inspectors holding the same types of licenses that they hold themselves. Technical directors must be licensed professional engineers or have the endorsement of several engineers, have 8 years of special inspection experience and have been a field supervisor of at least two disciplines. Technical Directors are part of the key management team, along with the Supervising Laboratory Technician.

Work Environment:
Special inspectors often face loud, dusty and dangerous conditions. Concrete inspectors must often carry buckets full of concrete for testing and preparation of samples; these buckets may weigh more than 100 lbs. Sampling often comprises just a portion of the inspector’s time and there are periods of time with limited activity where one simply witnesses operations.

Inspectors must often climb ladders and work in elevated areas, often using personal protective equipment. Inspectors, as with all construction personnel will be expected to wear long pants, sturdy footwear and appropriate shirts. Hard-hats, high visibility vests and safety glasses are generally provided by the testing lab.

While larger projects will require constant, full time inspection, many others may only require personnel to be on site once per week. Inspectors can expect to see a diverse number of projects and may expect a wide variation in work hours—both in terms of daily starting and quitting times, and in total hours per week. It is not uncommon for work to slow down due to cold and inclement weather in the wintertime with heavy overtime in the summer.

The membership of the Northwest Council of Engineering Laboratories is comprised of 12 testing laboratories. Some laboratories have multiple locations, from Bellingham to Centralia. The greatest concentration of construction work is in an area bounded by Everett in the North, South to Tacoma, from Bremerton in the West to North Bend in the East. Most inspectors therefore will find their day-to-day work to be in these areas as well. With the varying location of testing labs, there may be significant amounts of travel time involved with servicing work. Laboratories will often compensate inspectors for travel time, provide mileage reimbursement, a vehicle allowance, or even provide a vehicle for the inspector to use during working hours.

Similarly, many labs will pay for or reimburse inspectors for coursework, exam and interview fees, license renewals and codebooks. Medical, dental and vision benefits are generally universal, however, each employer will offer different packages with potentially wide variations in employer contributions.

For more information, see the NWCEL Partner Labs page.

Employment Outlook:
With the current construction boom, there is a clear shortage of qualified personnel in all trades, special inspection is no exception. Each commercial, industrial, and high-density residential project requires the attention of a special inspection agency. The recent adjustment to building height restrictions in Seattle has itself fueled several high profile projects even while Bellevue and other cities on the Eastside continue to expand, and industrial areas in South King and North Pierce Counties grow. Special inspection will continue to follow this juggernaut of construction, and testing laboratories will continue to hire, train and invest in personnel to assist them.