May, 2013
From the ASHI President.
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Thinking Out Loud

BILL JACQUES

Home Inspections can be very unsafe not only for you as a home inspector but for your customer as well.

Safety items should be a prime concern for every report: smoke detector alarms, CO detector alarms, steps, step treads, deck attachments, hand railings, electrical GFCIs, exposed wiring, electrical service panel box, double taps, damaged breakers, damaged wall receptacles, damaged switch plates or switches, ceiling fans and overhead lights.

We don't just make up these items that we are supposed to inspect for safety items and report to our customers. Many times we walk right by a safety concern that could have serious consequences for our customers or ourselves. How many times do we make our customers aware that young children can become victims of small safety problems like a door that opens over a stairway, uneven step treads, steps too far apart,  damaged step treads, steps without hand railings, pickets or balusters that are too far apart? Or windows that don't stay up when opened, windows that don't open, or broken window panes? Certainly at least one window in each room should open. And then there are doors that are hard to operate, locks that don't work, sliding doors that don't work, doors with loose hinges and door locks that are very hard to operate.

And the list continues with lights that are missing, wall receptacles missing cover plates, wall switches that are missing cover plates, broken or damaged wall receptacles, GFCIs that don't trip, areas that should have GFCIs, but they are missing. We find exposed wires spliced together but not inside a junction box, open junction boxes, live wires sticking out of walls that aren't connected to anything or spliced wires under the kitchen sink. Opening up the electrical service panel can be a very serious safety concern, as are sharp screws holding on the electrical panel box cover, open areas in the panel box cover that need blanks installed, lots of spliced wires in the service panel without wire nuts, double-tapped breakers, scorched wires, mismatched breakers, broken or damaged breakers.

There is new information on smoke alarms: whether to use the old ionization type or photoelectric, and where these smoke alarms should be installed. What about CO detectors? Many homes have gas appliances but no CO detectors. Even if you don't have a gas appliance, you may have a room or hallway area near the garage. If someone runs their auto for a long time to warm it up, that may be a safety issue, and a CO detector could be a life saver.
When we access roofs, using the right type of ladder or entering the attic, do we use the best safety equipment and reliable flashlights? How many times do we access crawl spaces under homes without the correct safety equipment? Goggles, air mask, a good flashlight, knee pads, coveralls, Tyvek® suits, gloves?

I'm sure there are many more safety issues that you could add to this list. Our customers' safety is just as much on our minds as our own safety.  Your family wants you back home SAFE. Be safe out there!