There are risks in every line of work. For home inspectors, dangers may be obvious: creaky stairwells, rabid animals and suspicious swimming pools are serious red flags. Most of the time, though, the hazards are less visible. Every house is new and unknown. It might look safe and sound at first glance, but you never know what you’ll find in and under any strange house.
It’s easy to become comfortable with your work and expect certain things from most homes. But one day you might open a cabinet and find a pair of eyes looking back at you. It’s how you prepare before it happens that determines how you’ll fare. Anyone looking to become a home inspector should be conscious of the risks and steps to take when their personal safety is on the line.
Here are 5 ways that you can stay safer on all of your jobs:
#1: Always Let Someone Know Where You Are
You wouldn’t go on a blind date without letting a friend know where you’ll be, so why enter a stranger’s home without first telling someone where you are? Working alone sometimes comes with the territory. But if you were to become injured, how long would it take for anyone to notice that you’re gone? How long after would it be until someone found you? Peter Hawley, licensed general home inspector, writes for Working RE magazine that this one step can literally save your life. The process of earning your home inspection certification covers a great deal of industry knowledge, but common sense can be just as important as the things you learn in the classroom.
Always let someone know where you’re working and how long you plan to be there. And keep your cell phone on and charged at all times. One phone call could change a situation from one where you’re lying injured for hours or longer, and one where you get help that you need. While it’s scary to consider this as a real possibility, taking steps to protect yourself from the worst-case scenario is always smart.
#2: Carry the Proper Tools for the Job
Some tools and equipment cost a lot more than others. But oftentimes, they’re worth it. For example, you can pick up a screwdriver for a few dollars. Or you can buy one with an insulated handle for quite a bit more.
An insulated screwdriver can save your life, says Hawley. If you touch a surface that’s life, and you never know when that might happen in a strange house, the few extra dollars you spent will be well worth it. The same applies to all of your tools.
Of course, more expensive tools don’t always mean they’re safer. Rather than letting price guide your search for the proper tools, do your research on which options are the most reliable. Ask friends and colleagues what they use, what they avoid, and what they’d recommend. You’d be surprised at how much you can save – and still, stay safe – by putting in the legwork to understand the options upfront.
#3: Check Your Equipment Regularly
When you become a home inspector, you’ll likely kick the metaphorical tires of all the equipment you plan to use. You probably check the functionality of everything you buy before you take it to the checkout register. But how often do you check your equipment for safety otherwise? Safety should always be at the top of your list, and not just once a week or once a month.
In some industries, workers never use certain equipment without checking it. For example, a cell tower rigger won’t depend on his harness until he’s inspected it before making that first climb of the day. The integrity of your ladder and your electrical testers can just as easily save your life.
4: Never Count on Safe Electrical
Speaking of electrical, Hawley also reminds that homeowners tend to have a propensity for doing their own work, whether or not they happen to be qualified. Remember that when you go into an unknown home, you never know what you’ll encounter. You can’t count on any component to be safe until after you’ve checked it.
You’ll check inside the breaker panel, but when was the last time you checked the door of the panel itself to see whether it was hot? A tester and insulated gloves can save you from a shocking experience. While home inspection certification might give you the right to poke and prod at a home’s wiring, it’s important to remember your health and safety on any job you take. Just because you can do something risky doesn’t mean you should!
#5: Wear Appropriate Clothing and Protective Gear
Finally, you should always wear clothing that’s appropriate for the job and protective gear. When you become a home inspector, you might not expect to need a whole new wardrobe. While you can probably put off buying a new suit, you’ll want to invest in the right gear and clothing for the job. A hardhat might seem like overkill since you’re not on a job site. But nails protrude from attic ceilings, and you never know what you’ll encounter in a crawlspace.
Gloves can guard against cuts and scratches. They can also help you fend off spiders and other life forms that you may encounter in and under a house.
Every Standards of Practice that you read will tell you that inspectors are never expected to put themselves in danger. But more than that, it’s also up to the inspector to decide what is and isn’t dangerous.
Safety should always be the top priority. Higher than the job, higher than the pay that comes from it. Because at the end of the workday, if you’re not safe, your livelihood is at risk. But if you are, you can continue to provide a service to the public and yourself.
If you’re still just thinking about becoming a home inspector, there’s a lot left to learn. But if you get a free demo, you’ll see firsthand just how comprehensive the classes at ICA school are.
If you’re considering starting a new career, ICA is your ticket to home inspection certification. Our classes are led by industry professionals who are passionate about sharing their knowledge with the next generation of home inspectors. Convenient, affordable and comprehensive, ICA’s offerings are ideal for aspiring home inspectors of all backgrounds. Learn more about our resources now.