Unsafe Whether or not a condition is unsafe is based on the judgment of the home inspector, as is the decision when and how to report an unsafe condition. A condition is unsafe if it satisfies all of these criteria:
•serious injury could occur,
•the injury risk is significant,
•the injury could occur during normal use of the system or component.
A serious injury may be defined as one that requires the injured person to be treated by a doctor. Significant injury risk means that the risk is fairly large or that the probability of injury is fairly high. What constitutes a fairly large risk or fairly high probability is difficult to quantify; this is a judgment call for the home inspector. Normal use means using the system or component in the intended manner for the intended purpose.
The definition of an unsafe condition varies over time and usually becomes broader. This can make it difficult to decide whether and how to report conditions that may have been considered safe in the past but are currently considered unsafe. The decision is simple; there is no grandfathering of safety conditions. A condition that satisfies all of the criteria is unsafe regardless of whether it may have been considered safe in the past and regardless of whether it complied with regulations in effect when the system or component was installed.
If the home inspector believes that an unsafe condition exists, the more difficult decision is how to report the condition. The home inspector has two options. The home inspector can report the unsafe condition as a deficiency and recommend that it be repaired/replaced. This option is most appropriate for unsafe conditions in newer houses and for conditions that constitute a very high injury risk. The other option is to report the unsafe condition as information and recommend that care be exercised when using the system or component. This option is most appropriate for unsafe conditions in older houses, and for conditions that constitute a lower injury risk.
There are many examples of potentially unsafe conditions that have been accepted in the past. Stairs present many possible safety issues. Risers with more than ⅜ inch height difference are now considered unsafe because of the fall hazard potential. Handrails that are not graspable are now considered unsafe because of the fall hazard potential. Balusters that allow passage of a 4⅜ inch diameter sphere are now considered unsafe because of the child strangulation hazard.