Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.
The virus is spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may also be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Learn more about the spread of COVID-19 by clicking here.
All people are at risk of catching this virus especially the elderly. Other high risk groups include those with diabetes, heart or lung disease, hypertension, asthma, the immunocompromised and anyone undergoing chemotherapy.
In addition to people susceptible to developing COVID-19 because of underlying health concerns, there are those whose careers put them at very high risk by bringing them into close contact with known or suspected sources of the virus that causes COVID-19.
When it comes to risk of on the job exposure, the home inspection profession is mostly at the lower end of the scale. Home inspectors can, with a little effort, reduce occupational contact with the general public and other coworkers to a minimum.
As with the general public, if an inspector is sick or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (the most common being fever, cough, shortness of breath) he or she should stay home and reschedule the inspection for another day. If you think you have been exposed or develop a fever and symptoms, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.
On the other hand, if an inspector decides to proceed with conducting a home inspection the inspector should obey some basic rules.
• Avoid close contact with others. Maintain a 6 foot separation between yourself and anyone else you might encounter on the job. Do NOT shake hands with anyone you might meet on the job. Some people may appear to be healthy but not all carriers of COVID-19 show symptoms.
• Wear personal protection equipment (PPE). This includes face masks or respirators, gloves and shoe covers.
• Avoid touching your face and mouth. If possible avoid touching “high-touch” or commonly used items such as doorknobs, wall switches, bathroom fixtures, garage door openers, etc.
• Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds regardless of what you do or don’t touch. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
• If you must come into contact with high-touch or frequently used items, as is the case when conducting a home inspection, wipe down these areas with a sanitizer before inspecting. As a professional courtesy to the home owner, consider wiping down these areas after inspecting as well. Wipe down your tools before arriving. When choosing cleaning chemicals, you should consult information on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens.
• Perform the home inspection alone without the aid of a coworker or team member. Make arrangements ahead of time for the sellers, renters or occupants to leave the premises before your arrival. Politely discourage your client and their agent from attending. If one or both must attend, maintain your personal distance and ask any non-essential attendees (children, friends, relatives of the buyers) to wait outside.
At this time in our history there is little reason for buyers to attend a home inspection. The home inspection review, where the home inspector usually reveals his findings to the buyer face to face, is a very important part of the inspection process. It is essential the buyer has a clear understanding of what they are about to buy but in the age of technology there is no reason this can’t be achieved remotely.
Prior to moving to the state of Washington I had been living in a state undergoing a building boom. People were moving to this state from all over the country. The competition to buy a house was so fierce people were buying homes from out of state having only seen the house online. In these cases the reviews were given to the clients over the phone and there’s no reason that can’t be done now.
Reports can be e-mailed to the client prior to the phone call so the buyer has a frame of reference. Photos of the inspection can be e-mailed or delivered in bulk via file hosting services like Dropbox or Google Drive. Even the face to face meeting can be virtually created with video conferencing apps, many of which are free.
These are strange times we are living in. Be smart. The key to survival for both the individual and the business they are involved in lies in safety and adaptability. Be well.