The Fire Never Started – Thank an Inspector

The general theme for this month’s IAEI News is safety; and when most electrical people talk safety, they think of personnel safety and safety in the work place, OSHA and NFPA 70E. And why not, after all electricity is dangerous and if you’re not careful working with it you can get hurt. What sometimes is pushed to the background is the big picture, the fundamental reason for our careers as electrical inspectors—protecting persons and property from the hazards of electricity. Sound familiar? It should, look at 90.1 of the NEC. If we do our jobs well, people really don’t have to worry about their wiring when they go to sleep at night or when they go to work in the morning.

Several years ago on my way to a seminar, I passed a firehouse and on the sign in front was the message “The Fires Out – Thank a Fireman!” I looked at that and said to myself, That’s a good thing, being a fireman is a tough job, but the more I looked at that sign I wondered why not have the sign read “The Fire Never Started – Thank an Inspector!” Our job is tough as well, maybe not as physically demanding as a fireman’s but it is a tough job. Not a good career choice for someone who wants to be popular, but a very good choice for someone who truly wants to make a difference in public safety. It is incumbent on those of us who have chosen this field to apply the codes and regulations our jurisdictions adopt fairly and consistently. When you do this, the public benefits and their expectations of safe homes and work places are realized.

How can someone argue against this, I mean, this is motherhood and apple pie, isn’t it? Not quite. In many jurisdictions across North America, inspections are being threatened by cutbacks in government spending or by special interest groups lobbying for exemptions from inspections. In some areas these special interest groups have been successful in having the model codes modified to not include the latest requirements for safety due to shortsighted concerns about initial costs. Oft times the argument used to cut back on inspections is to say, “We haven’t had any problems so what do we need the inspectors for?” It appears to me that is precisely why you need to keep the inspectors, so you don’t have problems. There is a lot of pressure on governments to use taxpayers’ dollars wisely but cutting back on inspections is not in the best interests of the public.

What can you do about it? For starters get involved. Many organizations, IAEI, NFPA, NECA, IBEW, IEC, ICC, UL, CSA to name a few, realize the importance of fair, quality inspections and their roles in keeping the public safe. These groups can provide speakers or give you information you can use to try to convince politicians and the public of the value of inspections. Will you be successful? Maybe, maybe not, but if you don’t get your oar in the water, the boat will never move.

By the time you read this, I will completing my term as president, and I want to thank the IO staff in Texas for their hard work and dedication, the International Board, Jim Carpenter our CEO/Executive Director, and all the Section, Chapter and Division officers for their work. But most of all, I want to thank you, the members, for your unceasing devotion to this great organization. Without you, there is no IAEI. Get involved, stay involved, help others get involved and we will have a great future in providing the safest environment in the world. Finally, I would like to thank my wife, Bev, for putting up with an unbelievable schedule and keeping things under control. It has been an honor serving you all. Fair winds and following seas…

Robert McCullough
Robert A. McCullough, former director of Ocean County Construction Inspection Department, is chairman of NEC® CMP-9 representing the IAEI, member of UL Electrical Council, National Certification Program for Construction Code Electrical Test Development Committee and Board of Governors representing the IAEI, NFPA Task Group on the Usability of the NEC®, member of NFPA 501, 501A and 225 technical committees, member of the New Jersey Code Advisory Board and chairman of New Jersey State Electrical Subcode Committee.