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Safety for the Inspector

As an inspector we are required by our codes and standards to inspect buildings, systems, and process.  These duties can place us in many unique situations.  Utilizing lifts, open stairways, climbing ladders to access roofs, or hazardous materials storage can create a hazard in our profession.

Unfortunately a fellow inspector (Timothy John Carpenter, 51, of Waipukerau) in New Zealand died last week while conducting an inspection on the second floor of a residential construction unit.   This death is tragic and serves as an opportunity to revisit our safety concerns during an inspection.

Recently I was sent a video clip which shows the dangers of the inspector profession.  Many times building and fire inspectors are asked to look at buildings once they have been damaged.  Many times the inspector issues or posts the building to be unsafe for occupancy.  Prior to this we can be placed in an area that is not safe.  Some simple tips to remember

  1. Always utilize proper protective equipment.  This can include reflective vest, hard hat, flashlight, steel toe boots, safety glasses, and hearing protection.
  2. Ensure ladders are properly secured and of sufficient capacity.
  3. When testing systems ensure proper safeguards are in place.  A new fire protection lead must always be flushed prior to connecting the system riser.  This is typically accomplished utilizing multiple hose streams directed outside of the structure.  The installing contractors are not always aware of how to secure the hand-line and can quickly get you wet and hurt.
  4. When inspecting upper floors, ensure proper safeguards are in place around the open stairwells, elevator shafts, and the edge of the building.   Recently I was finalizing a rough inspection at an apartment building and there were no temporary safe guards around the stair well.  I almost took a three story step due to the lack of this simple safeguard.
  5. When utilizing lifts to view higher areas, ensure the lift is on a level surface, utilize all safety equipment (harness), and never move the lift while it is in the upper position.
  6. Bring a flashlight.  (I am afraid of the dark) This step can assist you through the dark and avoid the obvious pitfalls.

In part we (inspectors) need to have adequate training in building evaluation.  This includes identification of potential hazards and dangerous situations.  Secondly proper personal equipment such as safety glasses, hard hats, hearing projection, and safety vests are important (reduce exposure injuries).  Construction sites and damaged buildings can injure us.  Take a look at this video and let me know your thoughts.

The International Building  and Fire Codes allow for us to correct unsafe situations.  Section  114.1 (Authority on Stop Work Order) allows the building official to stop work that is dangerous or unsafe.  (similar code text is found in section 111.1 of the 2006 edition of the IFC).  Remember we are asked to protect the people that live and visit our communities, don’t forget to protect yourself and if necessary utilize a stop work order and wait to complete an inspection to the necessary safety precautions are in place!

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