June, 2011
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Editor's Note:Does it Seem as if Your Editor is Obsessed With Safety?


You may be correct.  Before ASHI, I worked for a property/casualty insurer as a marketing/training consultant in the risk management department. Most of my colleagues were engineers committed to determining how to prevent property losses and keep employees safe and well. My team was charged with delivering that knowledge through publications and training.

Call it risk management, loss control or government regulations, there are millions of dollars spent annually in the public and private sectors on reducing workplace hazards — keeping businesses up and running and workers productive. With that background, it seemed strange to me that there was so little being done to identify the hazards inherent in inspecting homes.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards are difficult to apply to a self-employed home inspector working alone. For instance, one of the more hazardous activities for an ASHI member is inspecting a roof, whether by walking it or from a ladder. OSHA standards “require that an effective form of fall protection, such as guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems, be in use when workers perform residential construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level.” And if this is not feasible, it suggests that a spotter be designated to verbally alert the person on the roof that he is close to the edge. The standard was written for the construction industry and is not well-suited to a home inspector working alone inspecting an entire house or building.

Over the past years, it seems as if suggested work habits shared by home inspectors might be more helpful than standards developed for related industries. For instance, the article “Watch Your Step: Hazards Ahead” was published in the October 2003 ASHI Reporter.

General safety habits were covered in the article “Home Inspector Safety: Would I Rather Fight Bulls,” published in the October 2004 issue.

Last month, we published an article on the dangers of heat. All of these, plus numerous articles on ladder safety, are available in the ASHI Reporter online searchable archives. Add respirators to your search to be reminded of the dangers to your health from the materials you’ll encounter inspecting some homes.

When even a minor injury or illness can mean no work and loss of income, it’s worthwhile to develop work habits that will help you avoid the many hazards you encounter daily. The most important work habit is to be aware. It’s when we let  routine lull us into doing things by rote that we take that misstep.

I hope that many of you will become as obsessed as I am with safety.