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HOME & BUILDING INSPECTORS & INSPECTION METHODS
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
ALUMINUM WIRING HAZARDS & REPAIRS
ANIMAL ENTRY POINTS in buildings
ANIMAL ODORS IN buildings
AFCIs ARC FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTERS
ALUMINUM WIRING HAZARDS
ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN buildings
ATTORNEYS and EXPERT WITNESSES
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENT
BACTERIAL PATHOGENS in FRUIT & VEGETABLES
BOD WASTEWATER TEST
BLACK MOLD, HARMLESS COSMETIC
BLUE vs YELLOW COMBUSTION FLAMES
BRICK STRUCTURAL WALL Loose Bulged
BRICK VENEER WALL Loose, Bulged
BUILDING SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
CAR MOLD CONTAMINATION
Carbon Nanotube Materials
CAR MOLD CONTAMINATION
CARPET DUST IDENTIFICATION
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
Chimney Crack & Collapse Risks, Repairs
CHINESE DRYWALL HAZARDS
COMBUSTION PRODUCTS & IAQ
CIRCUIT BREAKER FAILURE
DECK FLASHING LEAKS, ROT Case Study
DEFECT CLUSTERS at HOME INSPECTIONS
DIRECTORY of BUILDING INSPECTORS
EARTHQUAKE DAMAGED FOUNDATIONS
ELECTRICAL GROUND SYSTEM INSPECTION
ELECTRIC PANEL INSPECTION
EMF ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS & EXPOSURE
ENVIRO-SCARE- PUBLIC FEAR CYCLES
FEDERAL PACIFIC FPE HAZARDS
FIBER CEMENT & FIBERBOARD ROOFING
FIBERGLASS INSULATION MOLD
FIRE CLEARANCES, Single-Wall Metal Flues
FIRE DAMAGE vs MOLD DAMAGE
FIRE PROTECTION FOR FOAM BOARD INSULATION
FIRE RATINGS for ROOF SURFACES
FIRE RETARDANT PLYWOOD
FIREPLACES & HEARTHS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOD DAMAGE TO FOUNDATIONS
FLOODED HEATING EQUIPMENT REPAIR
FLOODED SEPTIC SYSTEMS, REPAIR
FLOODED WATER HEATER REPAIR
FLOODS IN BUILDINGS, MOLD PREVENTION
FOUNDATION CRACKS & DAMAGE GUIDE
FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR
GAS HEAT ODORS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GLUES ADHESIVES, EXTERIOR CONSTRUCTION
Goodman HTPV RECALL
HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
HEATING OIL EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
HOT WATER HEATERS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
INSULATION IDENTIFICATION GUIDE
Lennox SAFETY WARNING
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEMS
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
MOBILE HOME INSPECTIONS
MOLD in buildings
MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
NOISE CONTROL for HEATING SYSTEMS
NOISES COMING FROM WATER HEATER
ODORS & SMELLS DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS FROM HEATING SYSTEMS
OIL BURNER NOISE SMOKE ODORS
OIL BURNER SOOT & PUFFBACKS
OIL SPILL CLEANUP / PREVENTION
OIL TANK ABANDONING PROCEDURE
OIL TANK PIPING & PIPING DEFECTS
OIL TANK PRESSURE
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
Outhouse or Latrine Fire and Explosion
OZONE for MOLD OR ODORS
PARTICLE SIZES & IAQ
Particulates & Allergens Indoors
Pesticide Exposure Hazards
PET ALLERGENS / PET DANDER
PLASTIC CONTAINERS, TANKS, TYPES
PLASTIC HEATER VENT
PLASTIC ODORS-SCREENS, SIDING
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
PUSHMATIC - BULLDOG PANELS
RADON HAZARD TESTS & MITIGATION
RETAINING WALL DESIGNS, TYPES, DAMAGE
SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
SEWAGE CONTAMINANTS in FRUIT / VEGETABLES
SEWAGE PATHOGENS in SEPTIC SLUDGE
SEWER GAS ODORS
SLAB CRACK EVALUATION
SPILL SWITCHES - Flue Gas Detection
Splits in Structural Wood Beams
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
TANK TYPES: WATER, OIL, EXPANSION, ALL
THERMAL TRACKING Indicates Heat Loss
UNLINED FLUE INSPECTIONS
VAPOR BARRIERS & HOUSEWRAP
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
VISUAL PERCEPTION ERRORS
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINDOWS & DOORS
ZINSCO / SYLVANIA HAZARDS
Safety hazards and accident prevention for homeowners, building inspectors & workers: common home & building safety hazards described & illustrated for homeowners, building owners, home inspectors. We include tables of accident frequency by type or cause, and we discuss and illustrate many common building dangers such as stair falls, ladder safety, electrical and environmental hazards, animal hazards, even encounters with deranged armed occupants in buildings. But equally important as watching out for the obvious, is our approach to inspecting or working on or in buildings, mechanical systems, and the indoor environment.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Basic Causes of Inspection Accidents
General classes of accident during a building inspection can be understood as having two underlying causes:
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). For example we (DF) have had clients who were very frightened about possible indoor air quality issues in their home. But we discovered they were heavy smokers. Another smoking client told me that she does not expose her children to cigarette hazards since she does not smoke inside their home. But we discovered that she smokes constantly when in the family car driving with her children.
We do not perceive risk accurately
The risk of falling off of a roof is a hazard. Actually falling off of a roof is an accident.
We are exposed to a wide variety hazards at widely varying risks. 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.
Even an apparently improbable event (being struck by lightning) deserves careful attention in some circumstances (you're on the golf course) if the cost of the occurrence is high (death). Further, the probability of an event (being struck by lightning) varies enormously with circumstances (you're indoors).
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.
Falling, Tripping, Slipping Hazards & Lifting Hazards
This safety hazard pattern has shifted since about 1996 to reflect significant increases in mortality due to drug overdose and firearms. In fact, by the end of 2011 in the U.S. at least, the New York Times reported that for the first time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control had found that drug overdoses represented the leading cause of accidental death, overtaing motor vehicle accidents. However falls remains a very high risk and one which receives less attention than it deserves.
"Falls include both falling to another level -- as in falling from stairs, ladders & windows -- or same level falls such as slipping, tripping & stumbling. Deaths from falls were highest in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Norway, Slovenia & Finland -- and lowest in Albania, Mauritius, Bahamas, Argentina & Chile. (Countries listed in order of death rate.)" Reference: Causes of Death, Ben Best
Risk of Falls, Burns, Poisoning 3
Falls: The highest risk of injury by falls occurs among the elderly. "Falls represent the most frequent non-transportation related accidents occurring among older adults and are the leading cause of home fatalities for this population. Stairways are particularly hazardous for the elderly. Other types of falls include slipping in bathtubs and showers, slipping on tile or icy terrain, and tripping over objects on the floor. Falls associated with getting in and out of bed, getting on or off a chair, or using the bathroom are also frequent.
Burns are also common among older people. In fact, burns and other consequences of fire rank second as a cause of death among persons aged 65+. Among activities that lead to burns are cooking, smoking, and accidentally turning on and failing to turn off appliances. Scalds from hot water are also a frequent source of injury, especially in bathtubs and showers.
Poisoning from improper doses of medication ranks third as the most prevalent type of home accidents. [Poisoning fatalities and hospitalizations have increased dramatically in the U.S. recently in association with illegal drug use. --DF] Older people are especially susceptible to this kind of occurrence as they are likely to be taking several highly potent drugs at one time, to have visual or cognitive disabilities, and to live in environments that are conducive to medication errors (e.g., environments that are poorly lit).
The high rate of home accidents among older persons points to the need to understand the etiology of these accidents so that we can develop design interventions. The reasons for the high frequency of such accidents are complex but are likely to include the fact that older people spend most of their time at home and that age-related changes in functional abilities make it more difficult for them to complete home tasks. Moreover, the demands of the home environment are often substantive in that the homes of elderly people tend to be older than those of younger people, more difficult to operate and maintain, and more often in need of repair. As a result, housing deficiencies, such as broken stairs or poor electrical wiring, are more common in elderly housing."
3.. http://www.homemods.org/library/life-span/enhancing.html Enhancing the Home Safety of the Elderly: Technological and Design Interventions Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D. Director of Research Stein Gerontological Institute
Reducing slip, trip, and fall hazards for home inspectors is discussed within individual building area and hazard topics which follow.
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)
Hazards to Avoid When Inspecting Roofs
Stunning stairs, remarkable railings, loopy ladder tricks.
The author has consulted in depth concerning fall injuries and has performed case studies investigating stair and rail accident and injury lawsuits.
American home inspector injury: inspector ascending or descending an improperly-secured attic stair was badly hurt when the stair came out of its opening and fell. Falling tangled in a stairwell increases injuries.
Lawsuit 1: Missing railings
Lawsuit 2: Flimsy railings
Lawsuit 3: Poorly-constructed exterior stairs
How to Avoid Stair, & Railing & Ladder Accidents
Note bad steps and rails to yourself and report orally and in writing to your clients
Ladder Hazards at Building Inspections
Improperly constructed or installed stairs
Unanticipated sources of falls during home inspections
References for Stair & Ladder Safety for home inspectors
Slip Hazards (Not Trips or Falls)
REF: http://www.aachenconsultancy.co.uk/index5.html on work accident claims
The most common injury associated with lifting is back pain. It is said that up to 5 million working days are lost due to back pain every year.
New York City worker found dead in duct system after falling through a ceiling and remaining trapped over a weekend.
Contractor's ladder blew down, trapped on high roof on weekend (cut hole through to interior)
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). See details at SAFETY for ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS
Also see HOW TO TURN OFF ELECTRICITY in a building that has been wet or flooded - separate article
Case Histories of Electrical Accidents During Inspections
Examples of What to Watch for at the Service Entry
Examples of What to Watch for at the Electrical Panel
References for Electrical Inspection Safety Procedures for Home Inspectors
http://InspectAPedia.com/electric/ElecPanelInsp.htm How to Inspect Residential Electrical Panels
Other electrical safety and product hazard references
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.
Use and rely on these gas leak detection methods in this order
Heating System Inspection & Gas Leak Detection & Reporting References
http://InspectAPedia.com/plumbing/Gas_Faults.php How to Check Gas Piping, Controls, Regulators & LP Gas Tank Defects
http://InspectAPedia.com/plumbing/gasfaults10.htm How to Identify & Correct LP Gas or Natural Gas Leaks
http://InspectAPedia.com/heat/HeatSafety.htm Heating Inspection Safety Guide
Also see these heating safety-related recall notices
Safety Recalls, Chimneys, Vents, Heaters
Collapse Hazards for Improperly-Constructed Decks & Stairs
Long Island Cesspool Collapse Fatality Lawsuit
Case study 2002. System "serviced" improperly (a failing cesspool was rejuvenated by aerating and agitating its bottom), owner walked over system next morning, was buried alive in a collapse.
Other unsafe covers, Septic Fatalities, fatalities in CA; recent report by email of an owner's visitor stepping into the septic tank
The Fatal Hazards of Falling in or Leaning Over Septic Tanks
More Septic Safety Advice About Site Features: collapsing septics, cesspools, sinkholes and subsidences
References for Septic System Safety:
When to Wear a HEPA Respirator
Wear a HEPA (and preferably also an organic vapor filtering double-canister) respirator. Paper dust masks (except the 3M N-95) are ineffective and thus dangerous. Repeated exposure to mold or other allergens can lead to increased sensitization, adult-onset asthma (DF), and even sudden and severe asthmatic attacks and anaphylactic shock (hearing booth client).
Steps to Avoid Mold, Bacterial, Viral Hazards in buildings
References for Mold Problems in buildings
http://InspectAPedia.com/sickhouse/action.htm Mold Action Guide: What to do about mold, mildew, and other indoor allergens
http://InspectAPedia.com/sickhouse/investigate.htm When to hire a professional to investigate a building for toxic mold
http://InspectAPedia.com/sickhouse/NotMold.htm Stuff that is Not Mold or Stuff that is Harmless Mold
http://InspectAPedia.com/mold/avoidmold.htm Mold Prevention: a guide to mold-resistant construction
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.
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:
Bad Animals: Dealing With Biting, Nipping, Inspector-Chewing Dogs
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
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" 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.
Defending Shutting Down Unsafe Equipment
The balance between risk of damage to property, possible fire, explosion, shock, or fatality, versus inconvenience to occupants or risk of freeze-damage:
Determining when a structural defect is an immediate and major hazard
Please see ELDERLY & VETERANS HOME SAFETY for the full-text version of this article. A summary is just below.
At 2AM mom decided to carry an armload of clothes downstairs to her washing machine. Wearing open-heeled slippers with smooth soles, carrying an armload of laundry with both arms full, and stepping down stairs that were poorly designed with narrow treads and thick soft nosed carpeting, she lost a slipper and fell. Mom's injuries included three broken ribs, an elbow so severely broken that an elbow replacement was required, and multiple lacerations to her head.
The author's neighbor, at age 85, made a wrong turn in an upstairs hallway after using the bathroom late at night. Dr. S. fell down stairs to a landing, narrowly-missing a fatal fall through a window located at the landing, and while he recovered, his injuries were so severe, both mental and physical, that he had difficulty walking and rarely left his home again until his death years later.
Falls like these are so severe that they can materially affect the length and quality of life for the elderly. Yet the hazards involved could be easily spotted by an experienced home inspector or home safety inspector.
In a home safety article "Making Home a Safer Place, Affordably" by Lesley Alderman and appearing in the New York Times (July 2009), Alderman provided some excellent home safety inspection and home safety improvement financing suggestions that we summarize here:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Questions & answers about the most common & most dangerous safety hazards in, on, and around residential and light commercial buildings.
Ask a Question or Enter Search Terms in the InspectApedia search box just below.
Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.