Installers and Inspectors: More aligned than you’d think

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Aug 10, 2012

The best source for inspiration in any product development group is our active and vocal customers. In a recent large-scale research project, we spent a lot of time studying and interviewing electrical, sprinkler, and fire alarm installers, along with their code official counterparts. While some might characterize these two groups as having diametrically opposed interests, the results of our quantitative analysis showed they have a lot more in common than you’d think.

The top 5 critical jobs as determined by inspectors were:

  1. Recognizing a hazardous condition in the field
  2. Getting the right answer to an unexpected situation in the field
  3. Understanding the codes and how they apply in the field
  4. Understanding how the code changes as it evolves
  5. Improving knowledge and job performance

Compare that to the top 5 critical jobs as determined by contractors:

  1. Working with inspectors who understand the codes
  2. Working with inspectors who keep up to date with code changes
  3. Understanding the code when installing a system
  4. Understanding how the code changes at it evolves
  5. Understanding the codes and how they apply in the field

These two lists are amazingly similar, and the prioritization speaks volumes about the roles that contractors and inspectors play in the process. Inspectors perceive that having broad and accurate knowledge is paramount. This fits with their role in the process: they are the last line of defense before a job is deemed complete and safe. Contractors intuitively recognize this as well: they perceive their own knowledge less a risk than the fear that the inspector’s knowledge was incomplete.

The idea that a code or standard provides guidance on the theory of a job stands out in this list as well. The emphasis for both groups is to have an understanding how code applies to the real world situation. Further, mastering the changes to code is a priority — it is too easy to assume that what you’ve always done is still the right way to do it.

What can we do with this information? Concerns about code knowledge, fresh insights, and a level of confidence in both installers and inspectors seem to call for code expertise on speed dial. Luckily, there are solutions available like NFPA membership and AHJ access to the technical advisory service. Confusion about code and code changes doesn’t have to be a hindrance to a successful project.