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Published by OREP, E&O Insurance Experts | September 2011

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"Home inspection is indeed a fun occupation. We get to strike up conversations with new clients every day, our work environment can shift from being inside a brand new home to being inside a house built in 1840-  all within a 24-hour period. Who else can say that?"

Home Inspector Safety Tips

By Richard McKenzie

Home inspection is indeed a fun occupation. We get to strike up conversations with new clients every day, our work environment can shift from being inside a brand new home to being inside a house built in 1840-  all within a 24-hour period. Who else can say that?

Fun or not, however, we do want to be safe so it can remain fun. In doing so, we also have to balance being careful with the full client experience and customer satisfaction, and being able to provide the services for our client from the start of the inspection to the finish.

Some safety areas aren’t always the ones we think about – that is, they aren’t as obvious as not climbing on a snow or ice-covered roof.

Below are some safety tips to remind ourselves of at each and every inspection.

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  • Walking backwards. Generally speaking, never walk backwards while on a roof. It is tempting sometimes when you have your camera and you’re looking for a better picture or angle to observe something you noticed. Only walk forwards. The reasons are obvious.

  • Roofs in general: do you go on some that are wet? Is frost present? How about heavy algae in some places? Better to be safe than sorry. Walking on a roof with algae is no safer than walking on oil. Frost is nearly as bad as ice. Can you save the roof for last, perhaps letting the sun melt the frost? Communicate with the client; they’ll understand safety and reason.

  • Ladders. Do ladders and sleet mix? Yeah, like oil and water. Our Southern California or Florida inspectors may laugh at this. How about rain and ladders? Not so clear cut. Before you go on the ladder to peek at the roof or attic scuttle area, where have you recently walked? Was it on a driveway with a lot of auto oil present? If so think about that and your ladder. Also, do you have clay soil on your shoes? That can be slippery, too. Lastly, where do you secure your ladder feet? Are they rubber ones on a telescoping ladder or traditional ladder feet like on a Little Giant? Each is the algae on decks, oils on concrete, etc. In most cases, secure the feet and double check...prefer the yard over concrete.

  • Knee pads. How many knee caps (patella) do you have? Two. Let’s keep it that way and not double that number. Cracking one’s knee cap is very easy and painful. Knee pads in attics and especially crawl spaces should always be used. One little nail head or pea gravel at just the right angle can...ouch! Plus, you can’t ever know what building debris or glass lies right below the surface.

  • Helmet. Yeah, I know, “I don’t need no stinkin’ helmet!” It’s your call...peek in the it overkill or not?

  • Basements and crawl spaces and suspect mold. Is the home vacant and basement walls and floor joists heavily laden with suspect mold? If so, it may be one of those rare times you choose to use your mask. If it is, if you tell your client and their Realtor the situation, they’ll understand. You’ll be able to determine if you need to use the mask at first glance or “first smell” once visiting the basement.

Lastly, how adventurous is your client, and how can you look out for their safety? First, remember sometimes your client may be handy on a ladder and may want to peek in the attic...they may want to peak in the crawlspace...If so, watch out for them. Your insurance likely will not cover such things, so you may need to say that in a nice way. You can always show them the photos on your camera during the inspection instead. Every blue moon, you may get a client who insists on visiting the crawlspace with you! It happens. Remind them of safety and to follow exactly where you are going and call out the hazards you see for them to avoid.  

It has been asked, “How do you know you are a home inspector?” Answer: “You come out of the crawlspace with spider webs on you and you still have a smile on your face!”  Let’s make sure we come out of it safely – and have fun out there. 

About the Author

Author and inspector Richard McKenzie is certified and a member of both American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), and is a licensed Radon tester per Ohio Dept of Health and Termite inspector by Ohio Dept of Agriculture. McKenzie works with the Cincinnati/Dayton/Northern Kentucky location of 1st Inspection Services ( Each location is independently owned and operated.  

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