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Building Safety Hazards Inspection List

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Building safety hazards course curriculum:

Here we list major building & indoor environmental safety hazards, and we discuss how to detect and protect from safety & environmental hazards in homes and other buildings.

We include links to detailed safety articles on important building hazards facing home owners, property owners, tenants, office workers, and repair contractors as well as for building and home inspectors, contractors, and for building owners who need to inspect or test the condition of their building.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Home & Building Safety Hazards, Standards, Inspections

News: on 12 March 2018, ISO 45001, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems Standard, was published for the first time. This safety standard, developed by experts from more than seventy countries and organizations began with the British safety standard OHSAS 18001, the U.S. ANSI Z10 safety standard, the Canadian CSA Z1000 standard, and ILO's OHSMS guidelines.

Reporting on the key elements in the new ISO 45001 safety standard, Vic Toy noted that according to the International Organization for Standardization had reported an annual 2.2 million work-related fatalities, of which 80% were ascribed to occupational disease. Toy also cited 374 million non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses per year, pointing out that these staggering numbers surely merit improved health and safety management world wide. - Toy, Vic, "The Long Road to ISO 45001, Key Elements of the First Global Health and Safety Management Systems Standard", American Industrial Hygiene Association, The Synergist, 3141 Fairview Park Dr, Ste 777, Falls Church VA 22042 USA, June/July 2018 pp. 24-27, author email:

The article series given here focuses on home and small building safety standards that put owners, occupants, inspectors, and contractors at special risk.

- Daniel Friedman  03/26/2008 - 7/20/2018 orignal presentation to the Connecticut Association of Home Inspectors

Abstract - this brief paper is a summary of HOME INSPECTION SAFETY HAZARDS [web article] where we offer detailed safety advice for building & home inspectors who, as building professionals, are charged both with protecting themselves, their clients, and the occupants of buildings that they inspect. The purpose of this class and the accompanying index to safety articles by topic are to reduce the chance of serious injury or death for building & home occupants as well as for contractors, buildingcode compliance inspectors, home inspectors, other building inspectors, and contractors.

The range of hazards faced by home inspectors in the course of examining buildings is considerable. It includes obvious catastrophes such as falling off of a roof or electrocution, and less obvious or less likely events such as structural collapse, exposure to bacterial hazards, fungal hazards, or even physical attack by violent building occupants, biting dogs, sneaky snakes, and pecking parrots.

Home inspectors and other professional building diagnosticians are expected to be observant and attentive to detail. Despite these skills, accidents happen to inspectors.

Article Series Contents

A Canadian home inspector fell to his death during a roofing inspection. He was ascending a high ladder which he suspected was unsafe. Following a home inspection in New Paltz, NY, Ballinger, a real estate agent who was angry with the results of the inspection, attacked and attempted to kill Steve Vermilye by driving his car off of the pavement, across a sidewalk, crashing into a building wall where Vermilye was walking. Another home inspector was badly injured when an attic fold-down stair fell out of its opening as the inspector was climbing it.

Hazards that an inspector should recognize affect other people too. An aggressive tenant threatened two elderly inspection clients with a rifle and then showered them with stones. An electrical inspector was killed by an electrical arc explosion while removing the cover of an electrical panel. A plumber was killed while leaning over a water pressure tank that, lacking a pressure relief valve, exploded.

We will list some of the more egregious and more interesting of these dangerous building hazards, review accident case histories, and we will illustrate procedures of attention, observation, and hazard recognition that can reduce the chances of accidents during building inspections.

A Brief Account of Accident Theory for Home & other Building Inspectors

People are not rational about safety

We are more afraid of improbable hazards beyond our control (EMF) than we are of probable hazards over which we have control (smoking cigarettes).

We do not perceive risk accurately

Some accidents are more or less likely to occur than we believe. Some accidents are likely to result in greater or lesser degree of injury than we believe. Having a more accurate picture of where hazardous risks lie can help us learn to properly attend accident risks and thus to avoid accidents.

Total Risk = (Probability of Occurrence) x (Cost of Occurrence)

The attention we pay to various risks needs to be adjusted continuously as we move through a building from area to area (basement to roof) and topic to topic (plumbing to electrical).

Tune risk recognition to area and system: The home inspector's recognition of risks needs to attend the hazards peculiar to each building area and system.

Educate to improve hazard recognition and to teach safe inspection procedures: The level of inspector technical education affects the inspector's ability to recognize hazards and to reduce accidents.

A Survey of Building Hazards and Accidents By Type of Activity

List of Building & Mechanical System Related Safety Topics: Readers should see our list of major building & indoor environmental safety hazards, inspection methods, & remedies listed at the left of these pages. Readers should also see our list of building inspector safety articles

at Home Inspection Education & Services - Safety Articles.

Falling, Tripping, Slipping Hazards & Lifting Hazards

The accident rate of injury by slipping, tripping, or falling is among the highest facing home inspectors and home owners.

Falls: The highest risk of injury by falls occurs among the elderly but falls are a particular hazard for home inspectors because of the need to access attics, roofs, and also simply because of the distractions while inspecting any building site. "Falls represent the most frequent non-transportation related accidents occurring among older adults and are the leading cause of home fatalities for this population.

Roof Access Safety Hazards

Canadian home inspector fatality, inspector ascending exterior ladder secured to building knew the ladder was unsafe, told his wife he was afraid of it but felt he had to ascend to inspect the roof during a multi-day inspection of a large building. The ladder came away from the building and the inspector fell to his death. (Ca. 1998)
(see ROOF INSPECTION SAFETY & LIMITS for more details on this topic).

Hazards to Avoid When Inspecting Roofs

Stair, Rail, & Ladder Safety Hazards & Accidents Described and Avoided

The author has consulted in depth concerning fall injuries and has performed case studies investigating stair and rail accident and injury lawsuits. The full paper and the class materials reviewed several falling lawsuits for which the author was consulted.

Home inspectors are qualified to observe, photo document, and report on physical conditions at a building, such as stairs which are defective for any of a variety of reasons.

How to Avoid Stair, & Railing & Ladder Accidents

Note bad steps and rails to yourself and report orally and in writing to your clients

Ladder angle  (OSHA: the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder should be approximately one-quarter of the working length of the ladder)

Ladder feet improperly placed on sloped, uneven, wet, icy, snowy, un-seen, or other slippery surface

Distractions - Bats in the Attic? and other distractions during climbing ladders: people, (client directly overhead while climbing ladder into attic - let's be first honest, second careful, third professional), bees and wasps, birds, bats, pets (more later on biting dogs)

Details and more examples of stupid ladder tricks are found

Improper steps and rails by dimension or angle or gap (child hazards)

Unsafe attic stairs

Crazy unsafe attic access © D Friedman at

Details and an extensive catalog of causes of trips and falls on all types of stairs can be found 

Unanticipated sources of falls during home inspections

Other Attic Hazards For Building Inspectors

Other Basement or Crawl Space Hazards

Electrical Safety for Inspectors

Here we give some tips on how to inspect the electrical panel, including the risks of relying on test instruments (resistance drops do not equal bad connections).

Case Histories of Electrical Accidents During Inspections

  1. Electrician in Atlanta killed while removing electrical panel cover explosion
  2. Homeowner denies unsafe wiring, gets shocked;
  3. Realtor instructs tenant to cut and remove harmless zip-cord wiring-fuses blow, curls tenant's hair.
  4. Rat's nest wiring comment frightens high-heeled client, runs through dark basement, fall

References for Electrical Inspection Safety Procedures for Home Inspectors

Other electrical safety and product hazard references

Building Fire Hazards, Fire Safety, Fire Standards

Here are some InspectApedia fire safety articles organized by topic:

Watch out: If there is evidence of a fire or unsafe heating equipment or a leaky or unsafe or burning chimney, get everyone out of the building and call for help from your fire department.

Gas Piping and Gas Appliance Safety

Gas tank or gas piping leaks are a potential explosion or fire hazard. There may also be carbon monoxide or other asphyxiation hazards from equipment malfunctions.

Detecting gas leaks, appliance safety controls, what to do when a leak is detected, when to shut down unsafe heating equipment.

Use and rely on these gas leak detection methods in this order

  1. Smell (unreliable both in variation among individuals and in de-sensitization on prolonged or gradual exposure)
  2. Visual inspection
  3. Gas detection instruments

Heating System Inspection & Gas Leak Detection & Reporting References

Heating System Safety, Recalls, Chimneys, Vents, Heaters, Heating System Inspection

Heating system & heating equipment safety articles

Security Systems: alarms, security cameras, smart thermostats

At NEST CAM INSTALLATION & USE we describe installing and using Nest dams or drop cams for both home security monitoring and for remote monitoring of a building for leaks, loss of heat, water or ice damage, or for intrusion or security issues.

More about how to protect a building from freeze-damage is

We have been testing the performance, reliability, and convenience of the Nest learning thermostat in our lab building since early in 2015 and have found the thermostat reliable, easy to control remotely by smartphone or computer, and an added source of peace of mind when a building is in a freezing climate.

Septic Tanks, Drywells, Cesspools and their Risks to Home Owners, Occupants, & Inspectors

Inspection Hazards at Septic Systems, Drywells, Cesspools

Collapsing covers over tanks, cesspools, drywells, especially wood, steel, or home-made Collapsing site-built septic tanks, cesspools, drywells.

Bacterial (sewage) and fungal (mold) hazards for home inspectors may be present if there has been sewage backup.

See these articles






The Fatal Hazards of Falling in or Leaning Over Septic Tanks

References for Septic System Safety:

Heating Oil Storage Tank Leak & Safety References Heating Oil Underground & Above ground Oil Storage Tank Leaks, Testing, Problems & Solutions, Home Buyer's / Home Owner's Guide

Structural Collapse Hazards

Collapse Accidents and Hazards of Special Risk to Home Inspectors & Home Owners

Masonry structures such as this carriage house in Saugerties, NY, can be very unstable and risk sudden even imminent sudden collapse, depending on just how it is damaged. Broken bond courses in brick are a particular concern

Wood framing and sheathing, especially unsafe roof framing or rotted sheathing

Collapse Hazards for Improperly-Constructed Decks & Stairs

Deck collapse photographs

The author inspected this deck and warned of its probable collapse, indicated that it was dangerous, informed the client to "stay off of the deck" until it was repaired.

The author re-inspected the collapsed deck to photograph construction details that led to the structural failure of this component. Litigation was broached.

Interior collapse hazards:

Watch out: See PLASTER, LOOSE FALL HAZARDS for examples of bulged plaster that may be danger signs, including an example of a collapse of an expanded wire lath ceiling that had been improperly installed.

Watch out: often the framing supporting plaster ceilings in homes built before 1900 was sized to be just strong enough to support the weight of the plaster itself. Such ceiling structures were not intended to support the weight of a curious home owner or home inspector.

Building Indoor Air Quality and Pathogenic Hazards for Home Inspectors

Visible mold hazards

Problematic and larger mold reservoirs may be present; risk varies by extent, history, location of leaks, building materials used, mechanical disturbance of moldy materials, other factors.

How to recognize problem molds and cosmetic molds by visual inspection - is it possible? Learn to recognize obviously cosmetic-only mold infections such as BlueStain.

What level of mold exposure is likely to be a risk to home inspectors? More than 30 sq .ft. of highly-airborne-type mold or even small areas of toxic mold if touched to an open cut or an eye.

Mold Inspection / Detection / Testing References:

How to Respond to Hostility, Weapons, Threats, Biting Dogs, Flitting Bats, Scratching Cats at Building Inspections

Dealing with violent or threatening building occupants, dogs, spiders, snakes, rats, other pests; weapons, threats, realtors. When and how to leave a threatening environment. How to get the inspection done.

Case histories of Violence at Home Inspections

Note: For reasons that will be apparent, I do not have photographs of these encounters.

  1. Tenant Threatens Buyer: Tenant informs inspector he is going to beat up and then kill whomever is buying the house (seller is making tenant move out); inspector identifies client as friend/assistant; expressed sympathy, was able to complete the inspection; recapped off premises.
  2. Tenant Attacks Clients: attacked by hostile tenant, brandishes rifle, uses car to throw gravel; left inspection, informed parties, tenant
    removed from premises before re inspection;
  3. Realtor Attacks Client: Client attacked by realtor, (realtor tried to push client's father down stairs in Westchester)
  4. Realtor Attacks Home Inspector with Car: Bollinger vs. Vermilye, New Paltz NY
  5. Home Owner Threatens Dog: Home owner threatens inspector (and inspector's dog) with pistol.

Steps to Avoid Trouble From Building Occupants

Assess the level of risk, monitor and change the assessment as needed Maintain professionalism, calmness, do not respond to hostility. As a professional guiding clients through a building:

  1. Protecting the client is your first responsibility
  2. Protecting yourself is your second responsibility

Bad Animals: Dealing With Biting, Nipping, Inspector-Chewing Dogs

Ask that dogs be off premises or confined in areas not to be entered during the inspection. Same for other potentially dangerous or hard to control pets. Do not permit owner's pets to escape, be lost, injured.

Bad People: Leaving the Premises Where Occupants Make Threats

Leave the premises if:

Contact: owner, realtor(s), attorneys, and if appropriate, police;

Do not return to the property without assurance that the potentially dangerous party is not on and will not be on or at the premises

Water Heater Safety Hazards







Water Tank Safety Hazards



Q&A session to  address reporting concerns, priorities of hazards, hazard recognition for Home Inspectors

Some Q&A Safety Topics for Home Inspectors

What is the Right or Obligation of a Licensed Home Inspector to

The "last man in the building" [OK better, "last person" or "last professional"] is typically held responsible for subsequent catastrophes such as exploding equipment, fires, shocks, collapses. A professional is expected to be able to observe, evaluate, and act appropriately.


Continue reading at ELDERLY & VETERANS HOME SAFETY or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



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BUILDING SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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