We all have
a unique perspective based upon our life experience. No two people have lived
the same life and, therefore, do not have the same perspective. Your
perspective is what sets you apart from all others and will define the value
you add to the industry. Our knowledge, both technical and code, gained through
formal education, work experience, and training is extremely valuable; but
there is more: there is the human element. Your perspective is shaped by life
experiences beyond the technical.
How do we interact with people? What does the NEC
say? What does it mean? How do we convey its objective to others? Communication
and enforcement of code requirements in a way that others will understand and
appreciate are the challenge. Meeting that challenge defines our value to the
Knowing the reason for a code requirement is key to
understanding it. As I type this article, I cannot help but remember the
required typing class that I took as a senior (I put it off as long as I could
do so.) in high school — the one that seemed to serve no purpose at the time!
We often do not appreciate the importance of knowledge or a skill without the
benefit of future experience.
We have all come from different backgrounds. Everyone
has strengths and weaknesses both technical and personal. We should strive to
use our strengths (and share them with others) and improve in the areas where
needed. No one knows it all. No one has done it all. Arrogance is the greatest
Some of us have worked for, or as, contractors and
bring that perspective to work as inspectors. We have lived through the fears
and concerns of the installer/small business owner and learned to appreciate
the value of code-compliant installations for both the owner and installer. We
know, firsthand, the importance of the level playing field that fair consistent
inspections provide for the marketplace. We know that correct installations do
not have to cost more or take longer than incorrect installations. The
opposite is usually the case.
As inspectors, we
know the political and practical pressures faced by jurisdictions. We are aware
of the conflicting interests involved. We have also had to face the challenge
of the most recent economic downturn. The economy may slow and new construction
fall off, but the code must still be enforced. We end up with fewer resources,
but we do not necessarily have fewer code violations. So we learn to do more
inspections with less. The cost of new code rules must always be appreciated,
but we cannot forget that burning buildings are not good for business either.
Although there is no substitute for proper
code/technical knowledge there are other qualities that, as inspectors, we must
Credibility is our most valuable asset and the
essence of what we do for a living. Our "yes” must be "yes,” and our "no”
should mean "no.” When we do not know something, we should say so, and then
find the answer. If we are dealing with a grey code area, we must not forget
the big picture and seek consistency. Our decisions will have life safety and
financial consequences. The truth will always come out at some point, so why
not start with it? Without integrity, our performance, no matter how well it
may be, is meaningless. With integrity, even our mistakes are not a weakness
because there is no intent to conceal.
Consistency is a key element of quality.
Perfection can be the enemy. It is better to aim for a consistent, attainable
standard than to accept an unrealistic standard that is never met. Can
perfection be defined to the satisfaction of all in any realm of life or work?
We are never perfect, and there is always a better way to perform a task. We
only fail when we do not seek a better way or learn from a mistake. Mistakes
are only failures when we choose to ignore the lesson. Something will be missed
at every inspection by even the best inspector. There is so much to inspect and
so little time available. Combination inspectors, in particular, have a heavy
load. The perfect inspection should not be the goal; due diligence should be
the goal. Do we know the key code requirements in play for the phase of the
project? Are we calling something at final inspection that should have been
found during the rough inspection, such as an incorrect wiring method? Are we
measuring the distance between conduit straps without realizing that the wiring
method used was not permitted for the occupancy? We can be limited by our
abilities or by the limitations imposed on us through the political realities
of life; but whatever our limitations, we must always seek to provide
knowledgeable consistent inspections.
Good judgment is the most important quality for
an inspector. Training and experience are the prerequisites for a mature
approach. Applying judgment to the infinite situations encountered is what I
enjoy the most about the inspection process. We are often dealing with a very
grey world and attempting to make it as black and white as possible. The
purpose of the NEC is the practical safeguarding of persons/property
from hazards arising from the use of electricity (NEC 90.1). Applying
the code correctly with the proper balance for all concerned is the greatest
challenge and the most rewarding part of the job.
Disagreement and conflict are a normal part of
an inspector’s job. How we handle conflict will define our ability as an
inspector. We should never seek to cause conflict, but we must be aware that
conflict is a natural component of the inspection process. Conflict should be a
healthy constructive element of life.
Conflict should not equate to anger or loss of control. Honest
confrontation of differing opinions or competing ideas will result in a
stronger product. Often, more damage is done when people seek to avoid
conflict. The result of sticking our head in the sand is worse than facing the actual
conflict itself. I like to use this example; if your car has a flat tire, it
does not help to change the fan belt. The tire must be changed! Quite often, in
work situations, I see people (or committees) avoid conflict by changing the
fan belt, when it is the tire that is flat. The other destructive approach to
conflict is the assumption of only two solutions to a problem. There are always
multiple solutions to every problem, and we must find the best solution for a
given situation. How to handle conflict? Embrace it!
As inspectors we may have come from different
backgrounds; yet, as IAEI members, we are all in the same place now. IAEI
membership provides a forum for sharing our strengths and improving our
abilities. More importantly, IAEI is our voice for sharing the collective
inspector perspective with the industry we serve. As inspectors, we know that proper electrical
connections are vital to the long-term success of every electrical system. The
IAEI connection to each other and to industry is just as beneficial to the
long-term success of all.
Read more by Pete Jackson