July 2017

Take A Closer Look: Inspecting Your Job-site Equipment

The industry experts at Builders Mutual tackle your FAQs.

Builders Mutual

A growing business brings with it stressors of every caliber, forcing you to divide your attention accordingly, from your team members and equipment to insurance and billing. Keeping track of the minor, intricate details can become difficult, and as time passes, those “minor” to-dos can evolve into mountainous dilemmas, causing you even more stress and money. Thanks to our experts in the field, inspecting your equipment doesn’t have to fall to the back burner.

Ideally, all equipment should be inspected before each and every use, but let’s face it, sometimes you just jump in and get the job done. However, if your equipment is not inspected consistently, it can do more harm than good in the long run. As Builders Mutual’s risk management consultant Dave Barker points out, “Equipment doesn’t always function the way we expect it to, but it will function the way we inspect it.”

There’s no better time than now to do a full review. So, stop what you’re doing, head to your trailer or storage unit, and see what needs to be replaced. It may take a moment, but it may very well save a life or prevent an injury. You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but these FAQs will help get you started.


Q: How do I extend the lifespan of both my fiberglass and aluminum ladders?

A: It is best practice to protect them from outside elements and keep them stored in cool, low-humidity areas to prolong their life. However, most of the time ladders are realistically stored on vehicles equipped with ladder racks.

The American Ladder Institute explains that focusing on support points when transporting ladders will help prevent damage: “Overhang of the ladders beyond the support points of the rack should be minimized. The support points should be constructed of material such as wood or rubber-covered pipe to minimize the effects of vibration, chafing and road shock. Securing the ladder to each support point will greatly reduce the damaging effects of road shock.”

Q: What are common signs of wear and tear?

A: If you’re not properly storing your ladders, signs of corrosion will reveal themselves quickly – or they could remain hidden. Fiberglass ladders tend to fade from a bright orange to pink due to overexposure to the sun. Meanwhile, aluminum ladders don’t tend to rust, making it harder to detect excessive weathering.

Q: Should I have my ladder inspected?

A: Absolutely. It’s important to inspect for broken or damaged components. A thorough pre-inspection is the best way to avoid job-site injury, and an annual inspection never hurts. Be sure to review everything from the support brackets to the side rails and rungs to the feet. Contact the manufacturer for repair or replacement options. Typically, with the exception of replacing the feet, damaged components mean the same thing: time to toss it.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Q: Will my used PPE protect my workers the same as new or good condition products?

A: No. Personal protective equipment will protect you only if you keep it in good condition.

Q: What about minor scratches on safety glasses? My workers can still see, so they’re OK, right?

A: Wrong. Excessively scratched safety glasses impair vision. Your worker may be able to see now, but in a few months, not so much. So, if you find a pair with scratches or cracks, toss it and buy a new pair. Their design deflects ricocheting nails and other debris, but only when they’re intact.

Do hard hats expire?

A: Yes. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations, but typically a hard hat’s shelf life is three years – and only one year for the webbing of the inner harness. Have yours expired? If so, replace them.

Fall Protection Kits

Q: Where is the best place to store fall protection kits?

A: The bags or buckets in which they originally were purchased.

Q: How do I ensure that fall protection kits are in good working condition?

A: Inspect each part of the kit. The harness, rope, and shock-absorbing lanyard should be free of wear and fraying. Be sure no physical burns from welding or even cigarettes have damaged the fabric. Are the metal components, like the carabineer and the locking snap hook, rust-free? If your fall protection fails any of those tests, it’s time to buy a new one.

Q: Can a previously used kit be reused?

A: No. It won’t function properly the second time, so replace it.

Extension Cords

Q: How do I inspect my extension cords?

A: First, identify cracked, frayed, or worn cords. Second, check the duty rating to ensure the cord is designed for hard or extra hard usage. The cords should have the markings S, SE, SO, or ST. Third, look for missing ground pins. Always remember to remove the power source before inspecting or repairing extension cords!

Power Tools

Q: How do I inspect my power tools?

A: Similar to inspecting your extension cords, you’ll want to take a look at your power tools’ cords and identify any of the same hazards. Then, check for cracks in the housing (the plastic casing). For saws, sharpen or replace the blades every six months – or sooner if you notice dulled teeth. An inadequately sharpened saw blade may jump and lead to finger amputation.

Q: How often do I clean, and with what?

A: All tools and equipment need to be cleaned regularly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically a dry brush does the trick, so keep one in your tool box.