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Tips to Avoid Home Inspection Electrocution

Electrical problems are the largest cause of home fires, and home inspectors must be diligent about inspecting wiring. And, when missing one faulty wire during an inspection can lead to legal and financial repercussions, home inspectors need E & O insurance protection. The home inspectors we insure are often elbow-deep in faulty wiring, and we felt it important to present some basic tips and precautions to avoid home inspection electrocution.

Where do the dangers lie?

Some of the most common wiring problems found during a typical home inspection include worn out or improperly wired grounded receptacles, loose, hanging wiring, and open junction boxes. In addition, it is common to find wiring under joists or connections not in boxes, inadequately sized wiring and/or switches (which means not heavy enough to handle the load), oversized fuses or even circuit breakers.

While Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCIs) are required in all new construction for exterior, garage, basement, bathroom and kitchen circuits, ideally they should be retrofitted into all existing homes. Although industry standards require that home inspectors test a “representative sample” of outlets, switches, and light fixtures, it is best to check every one for proper position and spacing during an inspection.

Where are the Risks for Electrocution during a Home Inspection?

OSHA and other sources stress that you can get a painful shock and potential muscle control loss for contact with a circuit generating 6–25 milliamperes (mA). The reality is that any power source capable of supplying more than 30mA has the potential to kill you regardless of voltage. Consequently, there are some basic procedures to follow when working with electrical equipment during a home inspection.

Tips and Precautions to Avoid Electrocution During Home Inspections

The first step in the electrical circuitry portion of a home inspection is to turn off the power to electrical circuits before inspection and then test the circuits with your multimeter to ensure that the power is off. Even during roof inspections, home inspectors encounter dangers of electricity such as with overhead power lines or the electrical drop from the power line pole. It’s recommended that you stay at least ten feet or more from them to avoid possible electrocution even as you visually inspect the drop for fraying or other electrical hazards.

Attic inspections can also pose some electrical risks as they may bring inspectors into close contact with open circuits or faulty wiring. It is wise to remember that even “safe” voltages can be dangerous, so receiving even a mild shock when you are on a roof can cause you to lose your balance.

Some ways to prevent these accidents are through the use of insulation, guarding, grounding, electrical protective devices and clothing as well as safe work practices. It is recommended that all home inspectors wear electrical gloves that meet ASTM D-120/EIC903 specifications. Electrical gloves should have high dielectrical and physical strength. They typically consist of liner gloves under rubber insulating gloves, with protective leather gloves worn over these.

Always wear insulated shoes when inspecting any electric circuitry or receptacles. Although it is common sense to avoid working in areas that combine water and electrical circuits, if that cannot be avoided, wear rubber boots and gloves to lesson your chance of getting shocked.

When utilizing any tools during a home inspection, be sure that they have proper insulation. Insulators such as glass, mica, rubber, or plastic used to coat metals and other conductors help stop or reduce the flow of electrical current. This helps prevent shock, fires, and short circuits.

Inspectors should be armed with a variety of electrical testers such as a high quality tester for testing ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices. Ideally the home inspector should be armed with the best and most versatile electrical tester that they can afford. This is typically classified as a tester that checks for proper operation of arc-fault and ground-fault circuit interrupter devices (AFCI/GFCI tester). This is in addition to the ability to test for the presence of 120-volt and 240-volt electrical current.

Every home inspector should know that home inspector E & O Insurance is a necessary safeguard to the legal and financial possibilities of damage suits from home inspection oversights. Even with comprehensive home inspector E & O Insurance, it is in the best interest of the home inspector to utilize the best tools and judgment to avoid overlooking a potential problem before tapping the insurance becomes necessary. All of these precautions work to provide physical and legal protection for the home inspector so that they can avoid electrocution as well as unsafe conditions that can come back to haunt them.

Electrical problems are the largest cause of home fires, and home inspectors must be diligent about inspecting wiring. And, when missing one faulty wire during an inspection can lead to legal and financial repercussions, home inspectors need E & O insurance protection. The home inspectors we insure are often elbow-deep in faulty wiring, and we felt it important to present some basic tips and precautions to avoid home inspection electrocution.

Where do the dangers lie?

Some of the most common wiring problems found during a typical home inspection include worn out or improperly wired grounded receptacles, loose, hanging wiring, and open junction boxes. In addition, it is common to find wiring under joists or connections not in boxes, inadequately sized wiring and/or switches (which means not heavy enough to handle the load), oversized fuses or even circuit breakers.

While Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCIs) are required in all new construction for exterior, garage, basement, bathroom and kitchen circuits, ideally they should be retrofitted into all existing homes. Although industry standards require that home inspectors test a “representative sample” of outlets, switches, and light fixtures, it is best to check every one for proper position and spacingduring an inspection.

Where are the Risks for Electrocution during a Home Inspection?

OSHA and other sources stress that you can get a painful shock and potential muscle control loss for contact with a circuit generating 6–25 milliamperes (mA). The reality is that any power source capable of supplying more than 30mA has the potential to kill you regardless of voltage. Consequently, there are some basic procedures to follow when working with electrical equipment during a home inspection.

Tips and Precautions to Avoid Electrocution During Home Inspections

The first step in the electrical circuitry portion of a home inspection is to turn off the power to electrical circuits before inspection and thentest the circuits with your multimeter to ensure that the power is off.Even during roof inspections, home inspectors encounter dangers of electricity such as with overhead power lines or the electrical drop from the power line pole. It’s recommended that you stay at least ten feet or more from them to avoid possible electrocution even as you visually inspect the drop for fraying or other electrical hazards.

Attic inspections can also pose some electrical risks as they may bring inspectors into close contact with open circuits or faulty wiring. It is wise to remember that even “safe” voltages can be dangerous, so receiving even a mild shock when you are on a roof can cause you to lose your balance.

Some ways to prevent these accidents are through the use of insulation, guarding, grounding, electrical protective devices and clothing as well as safe work practices.It is recommended that all home inspectors wear electrical gloves that meet ASTM D-120/EIC903 specifications. Electrical gloves should have high dielectrical and physical strength. They typically consist of liner gloves under rubber insulating gloves, with protective leather gloves worn over these.

Always wear insulated shoes when inspecting any electric circuitry or receptacles.Although it is common sense to avoid working in areas that combine water and electrical circuits, if that cannot be avoided, wear rubber boots and gloves to lesson your chance of getting shocked.

When utilizing any tools during a home inspection, be sure that they have proper insulation. Insulators such as glass, mica, rubber, or plastic used to coat metals and other conductors help stop or reduce the flow of electrical current. This helps prevent shock, fires, and short circuits.

Inspectors should be armed with a variety of electrical testers such as a high quality tester fortesting ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices. Ideally the home inspector should be armed with the best and most versatile electrical tester that they can afford. This is typically classified as a tester that checks for proper operation of arc-fault and ground-fault circuit interrupter devices (AFCI/GFCI tester). This is in addition to the ability to test for the presence of 120-volt and 240-volt electrical current.

Every home inspector should know that home inspector E & O Insurance is a necessary safeguard to the legal and financial possibilities of damage suits from home inspection oversights. Even with comprehensive home inspector E & O Insurance, it is in the best interest of the home inspector to utilize the best tools and judgment to avoid overlooking a potential problem before tapping the insurance becomes necessary. All of these precautions work to provide physical and legal protection for the home inspector so that they can avoid electrocution as well as unsafe conditions that can come back to haunt them.

Home inspectors have risky jobs. No, not in the way that being a construction worker or a gymnast is risky, but in the way that home inspectors can be sued merely for doing their jobs – and they have been.

Obviously it’s a home inspector’s job to find the problems in a house before a buyer makes his or her purchase. There are problems in old houses as well as brand new houses – it comes with the territory. Some instances, however, when the home inspector does his job and finds the problems in the house, can cost the realtor the sale (the buyers walk away after seeing the inspection report). One particular example of this happening resulted in a Connecticut Realtor suing a home inspector, essentially because the inspector did his job “too well.” For an inspector, home inspection E&O insurance is an essential backup to have in the toolkit.

For a home inspector, the consequences of making a mistake can be incredibly costly. And as the above example illustrates, even avoiding mistakes can create financial risk to the home inspector. It is important to cover your assets and keep your personal investments safe, as well as your professional reputation. Inspectors absolutely need to invest in home inspection E&O insurance.

When it comes to roof inspections, there may come a time when E & O Insurance saves the day despite an inspector’s best efforts to be thorough.Still, there are those inspectors that are learning that having a variety of tools can not only help them fight the need to utilize their E & O insurance to settle a claim, they can also protect them from physical harm.

Although there are number of areas of a house inspection where inspectors can get seriously injured, the roof inspection certainly is among the most potentially dangerous.

Since only so much can be gleaned from inspecting the attic (if it is accessible) getting on the roof may be necessary. Still, there are a number of tools and techniques that home inspectors can use to help prevent falls and potentially increase the thoroughness of their inspection.

Today, there are a number of options that allow a home inspector to inspect the roof without going onto the roof in many cases. Telescoping poles and cameras have been used with great success by home inspectors. Available in lightweight yet sturdy materials, they are capable of lengths of up to 40 feet.

Pole and camera systems are available with wireless cameras at the top and LCD monitors at the bottom. While the digital HD video camera setups also capture stills, there are digital photo camera setups available as well. Some utilize internal smart cards to allow footage capture and download to laptops while others allow direct hookup to a laptop. More than one home inspector has found that the footage he captured provided evidence of his thoroughness as well as the roof’s condition when they were faced with the need to file an E & O insurance claim.

The cutting edge of roof inspections over the next few years will be via the use of unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, which is the term used by the Federal Aviation Administration for these civilian crafts. Very different from military drones, UAS configurations are being tested by roofing inspectors and contractors around the country.

So far, there have been some uses by independent housing inspectors in the U.S. There are also a number of firms that will rent out a highly sophisticated UAS for roof inspections and other uses.

While the cost is generally prohibitive for the average roof inspection those home inspectors that would like high quality stills and video of inaccessible roofs can make the costs work. This is also the case for those roofs that may be potentially too dangerous for physical inspection such as slate roofs or those that have seen serious damage.

The practice of using a UAS for roof inspections is becoming fairly commonplace in the UK However, system ownership and rental costs as well as pending rulings by the FAA for commercial use of such tools in the U.S. mean that it will likely be late 2014 and into 2015 before they become part of U.S. inspector advertised tools.

Another technology being used increasingly by home inspectors is infrared thermography. Used in conjunction with non-destructive moisture meters & bore scope camerasor separately, infrared thermography measures surface temperatures to detect wet insulation under the roofing membrane.

It also can detect other hidden issues that cannot be detected visually. These devices are particularly useful for flat roofs where unseen structural issues can lead to a need to file an E & O insurance claim, or even put the inspector in danger of injury.

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires some form of fall-protection system where workers are subject to falls of six feet or more, this is not a requirement for home inspectors. Still, these systems can be highly useful for steep roofs or other highly hazardous roof configurations where physical inspection becomes necessary. These systems usually include full body harness, a shock-absorbing lanyard, anchor device and synthetic rope lifeline with a rope grab.

Having the right tools to perform a thorough inspection not only protects the home inspector by potentially making his E & O insurance coverage more effective, they can also protect the inspector from serious injury.All of these tools have been used by thousands of home inspectors to provide the best service to customers while also ensuring their safety during roof inspections.

EiiPro is heading south to Florida to attend the 2014 home inspector’s conference in Orlando in April. We’ll be sharing the latest news about our home inspection E & O insurance and are eager to learn the latest news in the home inspection business. Let’s welcome the spring season in together in Orlando!

Knowing the risks that insurance inspectors face is our business, and we take those risks very seriously. From identifying risks to helping home inspectors mitigate those risks on the job, we constantly research the latest trends in the industry so that we can be prepared to give advice to inspectors who are in search of answers about mitigating risk. Through our time in the errors and omissions insurance industry, we’ve found that the pre-inspection agreement is among the chief concerns for inspectors, regardless of how much experience they have in the field.  Thus, we have here compiled a short list of errors and omissions insurance questions and answers regarding the pre-inspection agreement, and we hope that it will serve as a resource for inspectors and their clients:

Should all clients sign an inspection agreement? What about clients who are not local?

Absolutely.  The pre-inspection agreement is an essential tool in protecting not only your client, but yourself as well. Because non-local clients may have not yet seen the house, it is up to you to protect yourself by securing the inspection agreement signature. In most cases, an email or fax signature will be relatively easy to obtain.

Can someone other than the client sign the agreement? The realtor?

Under no circumstance should anyone other than the client sign the pre-inspection agreement. Because you are performing a service for the client, and not for the realtor, and because the client will call you if problems arise with the home, it is essential to have the client’s signature on the agreement. Luckily, most realtors will understand that the pre-inspection agreement is an aspect of the inspector’s risk management practices, they can often be relied on to help locate the client and to secure their signature.

Should pre-inspection agreements be long or short? Is there a specific link?

The length of the pre-inspection agreement is less important than what you could call its “density.” In general terms, the density of the agreement refers to the number of legal concepts that it introduces, and the amount of plain language versus specialized legal vernacular (legalese) is used in the document. In general, as long as the document is drawn up by an experienced attorney then the density and length of the document will be your preference.

In some cases, you may find that you are more comfortable, or that your clients are more comfortable, with a longer and more dense contract. Similarly, you and your clients may be happier with a shorter and easier to read or understand contract.

What should I make sure is included in my pre-inspection agreement?

While this may seem like a simple question, it is actually extremely complex. Primarily, because it’s not easy to know what problems can arise and, thus, it’s impossible to accurately know how to protect yourself. Luckily, many example contracts exist online from which you can draw inspiration. Another resource is to inspect your state’s code for information regarding such protections as state limits of liability. When using these pre-written agreements, though, it’s important to remember that you must obtain permission before using them, and that you should never use a pre-made legal document without first allowing it to be reviewed by an attorney.

Does errors and omissions insurance negate the need for an inspection agreement? Vice versa?

Unfortunately, very few legal agreements are actually “iron clad.” There are always loopholes or interpretations to legal codes that will allow attorneys to get around your contract. Similarly, some states simply have legal insurance requirements and thus you must carry insurance. Still, regardless of whether or not your state requires you to carry errors and omissions insurance, it’s important to remember that the pre-inspection agreement is simply a first-level defense against litigation. The errors and omissions insurance policy is there to protect you if the agreement fails to protect you, and thus it is an essential aspect of every business, not just inspection businesses.

All professionals are open to insurance claims especially home inspectors looking for E&O insurance, and ensuring that their business is properly protected against claims is an essential task for business owners. Because some claims may not be reported until months, or sometimes years, after the even that triggered them it can be necessary for businesses to purchase retroactive insurance along with their regular E&O insurance plan. Retroactive insurance helps businesses stay protected against claims that fall outside of their currently active plan, and is an excellent way to mitigate risk and to protect the business.

If you’re not concerned with retroactive coverage for your E&O insurance policy, you should be. Retroactive coverage is an essential aspect of claims-based insurance for home inspectors. Because without it, your business may be unprotected on a claim that calls outside of your policy’s coverage period.

There are several important things to understand about retroactive insurance and about how it pertains to an E&O insurance coverage plan:

  1. What is “retroactive” insurance, and what’s its importance to E&O insurance holders?
  2. What are the differences between Occurrence and Claims-Made insurance coverage?
  3. How can I find out if retroactive coverage is included in my errors and omissions insurance?

What’s “Retroactive” Insurance Coverage?

Retroactive coverage is offered by most claims-based insurance agencies, as it lengthens the period of time for reporting errors and omissions insurance claims to include prior acts. This means that a retroactive policy covers prior years of work. Like most other claims-based policies, retroactive coverage would provide insurance for inspections that were performed prior to the start of your E&O insurance policy. This is an important addition to insurance for home inspectors, because it means that previous incidents will be covered, even though they predate the current coverage period.

As an example, let’s say you’ve been performing home inspections for 5 years, and that during each of those 5 years you carried E&O insurance. Next assume you are purchasing a new policy for the upcoming year and that you wish to add retroactive coverage. As long as there were no gaps in coverage during those 5 years, the retroactive insurance coverage of your new policy would be able to cover those previous years as well as the present and future.

Of course, there is a catch; retroactive insurance for home inspectors only applies from the date of the current policy back to the most recent gap in coverage. In other words, if you carried errors and omissions insurance from May 1st, 2010 until May 28th, 2012. Let’s say that during that time, you bought a new policy, and carried it until now, then ending the first policy. Since there was an overlap of coverage, your new policy would retroactively cover your last policy’s date range. That being said, any lapse between policies would prohibit retroactive coverage before the start date. Thus, it is essential for claims-based E&O insurance policy holders to maintain coverage for the duration of the time that they perform home inspections.

What Are The Different Types of Insurance Coverages? And How Do They Differ?

Both claims-based coverage and occurrence coverage will provide liability coverage for professionals and their business. However, each type of coverage approaches reporting and claims differently.

Claims-based coverage is concerned with the date on which the incident is reported. In other words, if an incident that triggers a claim isn’t reported until years later, then the policy holder must have a current, active policy in order to be covered under insurance. Also, claims-made insurance covers a specific period of time, and if the incident occurs before that time begins, then the policy holder must also have retroactive insurance in order to be covered under the policy.

Occurrence coverage, however, is concerned with the date of the incident, rather than when it is reported. This means that as long as the policy holder was insured at the time of the incident, then they will be covered by their policy even if they do not hold an active policy when that incident is reported. For this reason, current coverage is typically much more expensive than claims-made coverage, though it may not be appropriate for all types of business risks, such as those that are immediately apparent and that are unlikely to remain hidden until the policy expires.

Do I Have Retroactive Insurance Coverage?

Knowing the terms and limitations of your home inspector is essential to protecting your business from liability and claims. Therefore, all information pertaining to the policy can be found in the documents that your insurance provide will give you when the policy is first activated. Additionally, most insurance providers are available 24 hours a day for claims information, and they will be happy to give you the information you need. Finally, when you buy an E&O insurance policy it is critical to understand to ask your insurance provider about a retroactive policy. Many insurance policies for building and home inspectors provide complete retroactive coverage. Make sure to ask for it, as well as the necessary documentation to acquire it.

EiiPro is gearing up to head out west for the 2013 Home Inspection Conference in Las Vegas, NV. A staple of the home inspection business, the 20th anniversary of the big industry event is set to be huge!

We here at EiiPro look forward to this conference each year with great excitement. It’s truly the amazing how much we learn, and how much fun we have. With classes, hands-on training, special guest presenters and more, each day of the near-week-long convention is jam-packed with exciting ways to improve and enhance your inspection business.

What makes the conference so specials is that it caters to everyone. No matter if you’re just beginning, or are an industry legend, this conference is designed to keep you sharp and make sure you have tools to be even more successful.

From live inspections, to testing the newest technology on the market, every day is filled with exciting news and information that provides unparalleled insight into the inspection industry.

Interested in joining us in heading out to Vegas for all 5 days of the 2013 Home Inspection Conference, October 20th -24th? Learn more about the 2013 Home Inspection Conference by clicking the link. See you there!

Unfortunately, accidents happen. Even the most meticulous professionals can make a simple mistake, whether it’s missing an important deadline, making a bookkeeping error, or just plain overlooking something. That’s why consummate pros can find themselves embroiled in costly and lengthy legal battles no matter how careful they are. Nobody wants to face litigation. No matter who you are or how conscientious you are about your responsibilities, you need to protect yourself and your business with e & o insurance.

What is E and O Insurance?

Sadly, even if a claim against you is completely groundless and is based only on a “perceived” error, it can cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees. Errors and Omissions insurance protects you and your business in the event you are held responsible for advice you gave, service you provided, or service you failed to provide. In addition to the legal expense, include your loss of wages. After all, you’ll spend your time defending yourself when you could be working. To work without e & o insurance is risky. Why risk your livelihood? E and o insurance can cover give you the protection and peace of mind you need.

Should you get Errors and Omissions Insurance Coverage?

If you are a professional providing services for a fee, then you face financial risk and should have e and o insurance. Simply put, it’s professional liability coverage used by agents, brokers, inspectors and the like who deal with financial transactions. Some states even require e & o insurance.

When Should you get E&O insurance?

As soon as you are working, you should have e and o coverage. You may think it’s wiser to put it off to some later date, but mistakes or conflict can happen anytime. It’s best you have e and o insurance at the onset.

Doesn’t my General Liability Policy Cover me?

If you have a general or commercial liability policy that covers “bodily injury” or “property damage,” it doesn’t cover service professionals comprehensively. Service professionals are involved in transactions that have unique risks—not to mention the possibility of huge financial losses by clients—which are not included in those policies. Errors and omissions insurance is comprehensive, offering service personnel complete protection.

 

Ready to get started? Click here for a 30 second Quick Quote on Errors and Omissions Insurance.

We’ve all seen a movie with a character obsessed with cost cutting or maximizing productivity. Some of us have even been lucky enough to watch this character work his micromanaging magic firsthand in our own workplaces. Risk management is another area where a lot of people turn a blind eye, assuming it’s only the domain of the office’s anal-compulsive mid-level executive.

Smart home inspectors know this isn’t true, though. Basic steps to manage risk during home inspections are important for preventing claims against you. Here are a few measures for home inspectors to manage liability risks without serving as the inspiration for a character in an employee or coworker’s screenplay:

Use a Thorough Pre-Inspection Agreement

Collaborate with your attorney to create a pre-inspection agreement and have every client sign it prior to inspection. Define the aspects your inspection doesn’t cover or guarantee. Many home inspectors aren’t engineers, exterminators, or geologists; they can’t provide the same specific, in-depth inspections that specialists can. Your home inspectors don’t have X-ray vision (unless you are reading a screenplay) permitting them to see into walls and beneath the ground. Inspectors do have tools they can utilize such as thermo cameras and testing, however if something is not visual it is usually not covered in an inspection.

Create a Record of Inaccessible Areas

When home inspectors cannot access areas that do require inspection, it must be documented. Home inspectors should always go on the record—in writing—to say a certain area(s) were inaccessible and that access and subsequent inspection are necessary to ensuring there isn’t concealed damage.

Inform Clients of the Severity of Problems

Explain problems and their severity clearly. Recommend an expert in a specific area to come out and give a professional opinion on how something should be fixed or repaired. Your inspector is there to inspect the property not to fix the problems they may report on. The inspector may note what problems may be expected if they do not address them. Inform them about any safety risks, how the damage may compound or spread if they delay repairs. Make sure every deficient condition and your recommendations are in your inspection summary report (including narrative and checklists) as well as any action items.

Avoid Identifying Sewage Disposal Responsibility
Home inspectors are generally not required by law or even encouraged by association-sponsored standards of practice to identify whether sewage is handled privately or by the municipality. Still, many include a determination in their reports. Unless your state’s laws or local association standards direct otherwise, avoid this practice. If, for some reason, you feel compelled to include a determination, provide a source for the information and qualify that it has not been verified.

Get Visual Documentation of the Inspection

Whether it’s with a camera or a video camera, create a visual record of home inspections. Far more often than not, such documentation from the time of inspection settles disputes in favor of the home inspector.

Don’t Admit Guilt

An apology or otherwise indicating you may have missed something during a home inspection is an admission of guilt. If a client gets in touch with a complaint, simply provide assurance that you’ll look into it immediately. Look back over your report and return to the home to evaluate the merits of the claim. If you feel you have a claim or incident to report to the insurance company notify them or your representative immediately. They will help you create a thorough written and visual documentation all along the way and prepare your official response.