CDR Bulletin - Current Issue

Bill Christenson is a Case Manager for CDR covering residential and commercial construction, analyzing building systems and specializing in concrete issues.

Bryce Given is manager of operations for CDR.  He is certified by the Roofing Consultants Institute as a Registered Waterproofing Consultant and a Registered Exterior Wall Consultant.

Mike Showalter is the founder and President of CDR.  He is also a licensed real estate broker and a former general contractor.

Janet Showalter is the Vice President of CDR.  She is also a licensed real estate broker and is general manager of CDR.

The CDR Bulletin

Articles on best-practices, safety, contractor responsibilities, and other issues important to the construction industry.


International Property Management Code

November 2017

by Bryce Given

The 2015 International Code Council (ICC) Model Building codes for commercial and residential construction projects include the International Property Management Code (IPMC), which is designed to provide “the standards for supplied utilities and facilities and other physical things and conditions essential to ensure that structures are safe, sanitary and fit for occupation and use; and the condemnation of buildings and struc­tures unfit for human occupancy and use, and the demolition of such existing structures as herein provided.” This and all other ICC codes are revised every three years following the ICC 3-year revision cycle.     

In Washington, the State Building Code Council (SBCC) and its Technical Advisory Group reviews the ICC Model codes, holds hearings, and makes the final determination on which codes they will adopt for the State of Washington.  At the local level, individual jurisdictions often adopt and amend the Codes, tailoring them to their specific needs. However, we have found that in some jurisdictions, the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) may not be adopted in full or even at all. 

This code provides standards for premises to be maintained.  It states that “Except as otherwise specified herein, the owner or the owner's authorized agent shall be responsible for the mainte­nance of buildings, structures and premises.”  In addition, “Repairs, maintenance work, alter­ations or installations that are caused directly or indirectly by the enforcement of this code shall be executed and installed in a workmanlike manner and installed in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.”  A sample of building elements covered includes: walkways, stairs, driveways, parking spaces, walls, roofs, doors, windows, and drainage.

The IPMC does not place the same standards on “existing buildings or structures designated as historic buildings where such buildings or structures are judged by the code official to be safe and in the public interest of health, safety and welfare.”

Owners and/or their authorized agents with commercial or multi-family properties regulated by this IPMC code would do well to have some working knowledge of the relevant sections and how they might apply to their properties.


Fall Protection - Residential Construction

May 2017

By Bill Christenson

Falls are the most common type of injury accident on construction projects.  We typically see temporary guardrails installed at heights or workers wearing fall protection harnesses with lanyards on commercial projects, but how about residential construction?  It’s not uncommon to see workers on residential construction and single family home projects working unprotected around fall hazards, so are safety regulations less stringent for residential versus commercial construction?  No!  Fall protection pertaining to any construction work is mandated by Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-155, Part C-1.

Fall protection requirements are not just for hazards above 10 feet high.  Floor holes and floor openings regardless of height must be guarded.  Fall protection is required at the height of 4 feet or more at open-sided walking/working surfaces as well as ramps.  Work activity on high slope roofs (4:12 pitch or greater) where a fall hazard of 4 feet or more exists also requires fall protection.  Where employees are exposed to fall hazards of 10 feet or more, fall protection is required, as well as a written fall protection work plan.

The compliant means of fall protection are addressed in WAC 296-155, Part C-1 and include: 

Fall arrest systems – Stopped after the fall with a 6 foot maximum free fall distance

  • Personal fall arrest with full body harness and lanyards
  • Safety nets
  • Catch platforms 

Fall restraint systems – Restrained from falling

  • Guardrails
  • Covers
  • Warning line system
  • Personal fall restraint

Positioning device system

  • Positioning harness/full body harness with a 2 foot maximum free fall distance

Other common construction activities that require fall protection include:

  • Working on elevating platforms and aerial platforms (Reference WAC 296-869)
  • Working on scaffolds (Reference WAC 296-874)
  • Working on ladders (Reference WAC 296-876)

In addition to having the proper means and methods for fall protection, all personnel are required to be trained in the proper use of the fall protection.  According to WAC 296-155-24621, all training must be documented and documentation kept on file.  

Contractors and workers need to know their responsibilities and ensure that proper fall protection is used at all fall hazard conditions.


WISHA Compliance Extended to Homeowners

January 2017

by Mike and Janet Showalter

In 1990, the Washington Supreme Court held in Stute v. PBMC1 that a general contractor could be held liable for an injury to a subcontractor's employee that occurred as a result of a WISHA violation committed by that employee.  This rule (WRD 27.00) was subsequently extended to include any upper-tier subcontractor who, like a general contractor, has a non-delegable, specific duty to ensure compliance with all applicable WISHA regulations for “every employee on the jobsite,” not just its own employees.[1]  A general or upper-tier contractor is deemed responsible for protecting workers on the jobsite, including “any employee who may be harmed by the employer’s violation of the safety rules.” [2]

Subsequent lawsuits since 1990 have worked vigorously to extend this duty also to owner/developers, landowners whose independent contractors fail to comply with safety and health regulations, and now property owners and other employers, depending on the degree of control exercised and whether they control or create a hazard.  Examples of criteria for determining that a property owner falls under these regulations are:

  1. The essence of the contract with the contractor (whether written or verbal) is the contractor’s personal labor
  2. The homeowner is in some manner controlling or directing the contractor’s day-to-day activities such as:
  • Directing and/or supervising the contractor on how to do the work
  • Setting specific work hours, like workday start and end times, or lunch or rest breaks
  • Controlling how payment occurs, whether monetary or another form of compensation
  • Supplying materials, tools or equipment required to complete work activities.

On October 30, 2016, The Department of Labor and Industries expanded WRD 27.00. The basis for this expansive duty to ensure safety for all employees and non-employees on the jobsite arises from the top entity’s (general contractor, upper-tier contractor, owner, developer, landowner, etc.) “ innate supervisory authority,” which “constitutes sufficient control over the workplace.”[3]  The law determines that this entity is in the best position, financially and structurally, to ensure WISHA compliance.  Because this entity has authority to direct the working conditions on a construction site, they have ultimate responsibility under WISHA for job safety and health at the job site.

The general contractor (or any entity of similar position and authority) must demonstrate that it is meeting these responsibilities by fulfilling the following:

  1. must contractually require its subcontractors to provide all safety equipment required to do the job, or furnish the required safety equipment
  2. develop and implement an Accident Prevention Program
  3. develop a written site specific Safety Plan that addresses and coordinates the safety issues of all its subcontractors at the site
  4. require that a site specific Safety Plan is developed in a manner consistent with the relevant WAC regulations
  5. require its subcontractors to have Accident Prevention Programs and site specific plans consistent with the relevant WAC regulations
  6. develop a management plan
  7. make the Accident Prevention Program and all site-specific safety plans available and accessible
  8. develop a plan that will reasonably discover violations of its Accident Prevention Program or Safety Plan
  9. must show it has effectively enforced in practice its Accident Prevention Program and/or Safety Plan
  10. must provide contractual language that requires its subcontractors to comply with all safety rules
  11. must require its subcontractors to have and enforce a disciplinary schedule that will be followed by its subcontractors
  12. must include a method of documenting safety violations, as well as a method of recording what, if any, appropriate disciplinary action is taken

The extended reach of this ruling should especially alert homeowners because now they also can be issued citations for violating safety and health requirements if it is determined that they are acting as general contractors.  A citation raises the question of liability, which leads to the possibility of a lawsuit where the homeowner will have to defend himself against the claims being made.  If found liable, the financial implications can be huge.  Be informed before taking on this role!


[1] Stute, 114 Wn.2d at 456, 463-64; accord Kamla, 147 Wn.2d at 122 

[2] Afoa v. Port of Seattle, 176 Wn.2d 460, 471, 296 P.3d 800 (2013)

[3] Stute, 114 Wn.2d at 464


Ladders on the Job Site

September 2016

by Bill Christenson

We have all been around and used portable ladders on project job sites but have we been doing so in a safe and code compliant manner?  Ladder safety violations are one of the top ten cited rule violations during L&I inspections.  As an employer, one must have a competent person train all employees in the proper use of ladders.  Commercially purchased ladders (which should have a label indicating ANSI compliance) as well as field built ladders must meet the design and construction requirements of ANSI A14 ladder standards.

Ladders must be inspected by a competent person when first put into service and periodically thereafter.  Any structural damage to ladder components such as bent, broken, or split side rails and/or rungs renders the ladder as unusable.  Note that a damaged or defective side rail of a commercially manufactured ladder cannot be repaired by the user.

Proper selection of a ladder for intended use is required.  Nonconductive type ladders need to be used where exposed electrical hazards exist.  Stepladders are to be used only in the fully opened position and not as a non-self-supporting portable single ladder.  Setup of ladders is to be on firm and level support or the ladder must be secured to prevent displacement.  Ladders are not to be placed on other objects to gain additional height.  When using a ladder to access an upper level, the ladder must extend three feet above the landing surface. 

When climbing and descending ladders, the user must face the ladder and have both hands free to hold onto the ladder.  Working from a ladder requires the ladder to be secured at the top and bottom.  Fall protection must be provided when work on a ladder requires use of both hands and is more than 25 feet above the ground.

Ensure that ladders are properly and safely used on project sites by reviewing the full text of Washington State ladder requirements at .


Sidewalk Maintenance and Repair

December 2015

by Bill Christenson

Many of our residential neighborhoods and most municipal business districts have sidewalks along public right-of-ways providing public access throughout our communities.  Commonly, sidewalks are constructed with public funding by municipalities or as part of private site developments.  The general perception may be that maintenance and repair of these sidewalks is the responsibility of the city in which they are located, though this is not necessarily the case. 

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 35.69 allows city councils to place the duty, burden, and expense of sidewalk maintenance and repair upon the property owner directly abutting the improvement.  Several of our local cities including Seattle and Tacoma have adopted resolutions that require property owners to maintain sidewalks fit and safe for public travel.  The Seattle Department of Transportation and Tacoma Public Works Department identify several conditions for sidewalk repairs including:

·        Height differential or separation greater than ½”
·        Cracks, separation, or hole greater than 1” in width
·        Any piece of sidewalk that can be moved with ordinary foot pressure
·        Undermined sidewalks

Sidewalk repairs may include concrete grinding, slab jacking, filling of cracks and holes, tree root maintenance with an authorized arborist, or complete removal/replacement of damaged walks.  Repairs must also be performed in accordance with city current standards.  Most repairs will necessitate hiring a competent concrete contractor.

Typically sidewalk damages caused by city trees are the responsibility of the city.  The City of Seattle maintains an inventory of “city” trees that can be viewed at  Sidewalk damage caused by private trees may be the responsibility of the property owner.

Be aware that as an owner of commercial or residential property in Washington State, you may be responsible to keep the adjacent sidewalk properly maintained and repaired.  Check with your local municipality regarding sidewalk maintenance and repair requirements in your city.