Here we are in the midst of major hail storm activity thus a timely reminder about adjuster safety when it comes to doing roof inspections. Don’t let the carrier quotas for inspection and closing numbers cause you to lose perspective of the dangers involved in working roof damage claims.
Each year we hear of adjusters who have fallen off of a roof. As an independent adjuster, most of these folks are self employed and unfortunately many are without health insurance or long term disability policies to protect them should an injury occur while out on assignment. Here are a few articles and blogs that discuss these issues:
The Consumer Product Safety alert below says there are over 164,000 visits annually (another consumer report indicates it is 180,000 visits) to emergency rooms resulting from ladder usage:
Here is a link to OSHA ladder safety information:
Here’s another article on ladder safety by the National AG database not only on ladder placement against buildings but also for safety using ladders in trees:
Our hats off to Worley adjusting firm as the only adjusting firm I know of which requires adjusters sign off on a ladder safety quiz to be sure they know the guidelines as part of their new applicant package ( I do know many other adjusting firms do discuss the ladder safety issues at yearly conferences):
http://www.worleyco.com/joinourteam.php **Just scroll down to the ladder safety quiz
Several adjuster forums discuss ladder safety if you view the following links on ladder safety topics and falls many adjusters have experienced:
Here’s the link to the Petzel rope harness products mentioned in that discussion:
Here’s a link to another blog on adjuster ladder safety after yet another adjuster’s death from falling off a roof:
On a more upbeat note, you’ve got to see this Atlas Devices’ new in 2007 Rope Ascender- what a cool tool! Watch both videos on the roof ascender here:
And the product info on these roof ascenders here:
Have you seen the Ladder EZE Automatic Ladder Level?
Another favorite product are the “Custom Tool Belts” designed for field adjusters. I had a discussion today with Chris Miller, the owner, who is also a member of our adjuster training site,ClaimSmentor, providing information on roof safety issues as well as on siding matching issues as Chris also owns www.sidingmatch.com. Chris was sharing with me that he has attended many adjuster training seminars where ladder safety is discussed and he has noticed that the ladder safety videos never show the common practice of adjusters climbing a roof with camera in hand, tape measure, roof chalk for marking hail hits, and their sketch pad and pencil for diagramming and how very dangerous this is. These belts provide the relief adjusters need to safely handle roof inspections while hands are free for safe access to the ladder. If you haven’t seen these custom tool belts, here’s a link:
Another favorite ladder safety product we tested in our ClaimSmentor Roving Reporter program (firms donate 1 sample of their product for testing or allow us to send a student free of charge to an adjuster training class where an objective evaluation is done by a designated volunteer participant in our forums) is the Guardian Walk Through Ladder attachment. I know without a doubt that I wish I’d had a set of these walk through devices during my years of climbing roofs on storm losses for a much more secure feeling. These walk through ladder extensions received glowing evals from our tester who himself was an experienced contractor/roofer prior to becoming an adjuster. Here is a link of a picture of these walk through devices:
We found these today at Rock Supply on sale for $185.00 which is about $100.00 off of the price we’d located last hail season:
There was a recall on one of the walk through ladder extensions and a fix has been provided as well so ask about the repair attachment if you do order one of these just in case those being sold today still do have these issues:
We also found the rope and harness kits available here:
You can also order your rope and harness equipment through KSquared-see below comments for their rope and harness class as well.
Speaking of Guardian Fall, we did successfully obtain a 20% discount on their Safe_T ladder walk through extensions last year for ClaimSmentor participants so you might want to check there to see if you can obtain a discount (ask for their National Accounts rep):
K Squared is one of the only firm’s I’m familiar with who offers the Rope and Harness training for adjusters but the owner himself is a field adjuster so we’ve experienced delays trying to get the classes when participants wanted them in groups if the owner was out on assignment. The catastrophe adjuster book sold by this firm has also received an excellent rating by one of our participants who also evaluated the book for us from a new adjuster’s perspective:
We are working with another group who has developed a rope and harness class and will post more information on that training when it is finalized. If you know of other firms offering this training for independent adjusters, we’d appreciate links to their websites.
Carriers offer the rope and harness training and equipment to their staff adjusters but not generally to independent adjusters. You can add this to the list of Pros of going staff adjuster. As a staff adjuster working regular non storm claims, your unit receives theft losses, liability claims, grease fires, and many other claims that don’t require roof inspections. Members of my unit would always gladly trade me a steep roof loss for one of these losses which required much more work and a much longer tail in closing. As an independent, you don’t have the luxury of file swapping. If you missed our prior blog on the Pros and Cons of Staff vs Independent adjuster…. here’s a link:
I’d make sure to stop by and view the Consumer Safety information found on ladders for many ladder recalls and safety issues by manufacturer before using or purchasing ladders for your adjusting inspection duties:
Here’s are 13 ladders they found unacceptable as well:
Carriers often require double pulls with your ladder which has always caused me great concern as a claims manager. Be sure you are properly trained on doing so BEFORE you attempt this. I recall the very limited training I got back in the early 80’s when I first moved to the field from an in office position. It consisted of an experienced adjuster riding with me and showing me how to unfold the Stapleton ladder we were required to use in the quickest manner possible for unfolding it and getting it back in the company car in the most efficient manner. Out on my first storm, a reinspector gave me additional tips to include keeping one key in the car truck so I didn’t have to waste one valuable minute taking keys in and out of the car to get the ladder in and out of the trunk (also a great tip as it’s very common for adjusters to lock the keys in the car in the rush of meeting inspection quota daily requirements).
Here is a cute story about “Closer to God” written by a Home Inspector about his experience on a steep roof loss with great advice to be sure you carry a cellphone ON the roof with you in case you can’t get down:
I can assure you that I for one should never have done roof inspections! I had a serious fear of heights and hugged many a chimney in my 11 years in the field before progressing into management. I also was never comfortable with the double pull requirements although I saw female adjusters much more petite than I do it successfully due to their confidence level. The only time I was ever happy climbing up that ladder was when being chased in the yard by an insured’s dog and the ladder looked like a better option than the unavoidable dog bite I might have otherwise incurred. I will never forget a reinspector training me in the early years taking me to a loss for training. He did not have a ladder with us and I was told to climb the roof from the insured’s paint ladder. While it was difficult enough getting up, getting down was virtually impossible for me since I was under 5 ft tall. He simply laid on his stomach and rolled off grabbing the gutters and jumping. I was horrified doing so to say the least.
Today, I just would have said no and waited for a ladder even if it meant waiting 30 minutes for one to arrive no matter how angry he may have become. Seriously consider the many claim central in office claim positions that are now available should you suffer a similar fear of heights. It is not worth the danger to your life and I should never have put myself through the heartache of doing something I made even more dangerous due to my fear of heights. There are so many more options available for adjusters today to work as contents specialists, additional living expense team members, business interruption claim specialists, and of course as liability adjusters.
A few other thoughts for new adjusters from some of the mentors who taught me during my training years:
1) Always honk your horn before jumping out of your vehicle to see if any loose dogs around. I’ve heard numerous stories of adjusters in the process of removing their ladder or setting it up only to be charged by a dog with vicious movements.
2) Never deny a claim from the roof. It’s not unheard of for insureds to remove an adjuster’s ladder in anger!
3)Watch out for your adjuster buddies in the neighborhood. Pranks are often played taking off with an adjuster’s ladder leaving them stranded (more a staff adjuster prank to destroy quotas of a competitor!)
4) Carriers always require your photos be taken from the ridge. Drive by photos as I’ve seen some try to get by with aren’t going to fly nor photos taken from the eaves. They want your photo to reflect you were on the roof.
This leads to another great tip received to circumvent some insureds who call in alleging you never got on their roof- leave your calling card near the chimney under a shingle. Use the same spot routinely so you can direct someone to where you might have left it. It’s really humorous as an adjuster to go up on a roof and see what adjusters have been up there before you on prior losses when you find their business card as many use this tip in our industry!
5) Don’t ever ever climb a roof you are not comfortable with. It seems that most carriers expect you to climb atleast up to a 7/12 pitch. They also usually have rope and harness certified adjusters to work steep/two story teams where they will send those folks out on the ones you just are not comfortable with. In many cases they will do this for independents as well as staff but check with the carrier or adjusting firm management for specific directions for their procedures.
It is ALWAYS a good idea to take a risk photo to show the steep nature of the roof before requesting a two story team conduct the roof inspection.
These rope and harness teams this year are providing excellent opportunities for new adjusters with construction backgrounds to work as an assistant to the rope and harness team senior partner while also having time to train in the field on file requirements before being let loose on your own. The rates I’m hearing from some of the adjusters doing so is a daily rate between $200-$250 per day while they are an assistant and the daily rate being bumped up to the $500-$550 rates (your portion of this would depend on the fee split you have agreed to with the adjusting firm- usually 60/40 or so) once you are the senior rope and harness adjuster with your own team. I’ve mentioned this before and will do so again here- I would be sure to specify you are rope and harness certified on your resume if you have the training as it is sure to get you additional assignments.
There are many stories on the internet about tips if you find yourself (escaping a fire..or your ladder falls and the insured is not home) in the position of having to jump off a roof…here is one example:
There are also some great articles from firefighters who must access a roof for fire ventilation and many safety tips if you must climb a roof after a fire in firefighter manuals such as this to avoid the roof collapsing beneath you. While these many articles are directed to fire fighters, what great advice for adjusters also working fire losses before climbing these roofs. Consider these same dangers when inspecting a roof that has been compromised with a tree that has punctured the roof structure:
This next link has some fascinating pictures of how firefighters anchor themselves with the use of axes and other tools from interior walls as a means of escaping if their interior escape route is cut off (I’m sure adjusters have had these same concerns about collapse of structural components while inspecting severely damaged structures from fires, hurricanes, etc).
Speaking of ladders- have you seen these great EZ-GLIDE System van ladder racks which lower the ladder to you with the switch of a lever? What a great option for adjusters who must pull their ladder in and out of a vehicle multiple times a day which is exhausting when you are working 7 days a week/ 12 hours daily:
Cougar Paws are the favored shoe of many independents for roof climbing safety concerns:
If you are an experienced adjuster and have some great advice for new adjusters on roof safety issues, feel free to reply to this post. We’d love to hear from you as you share your helpful advice with others entering this industry. I’ll end this blog with one final link to a great article that sums up the safety issues, double pull conversations and some good comments by others participating on the blog:
Remember, what is safe to one adjuster who is highly skilled and comfortable on steep roofs may not be comfortable with you. Your life is much more important than a fee bill for a roof inspection. Walk away from the assignment without a second thought if you are not comfortable working the loss. Do not be pressured to inspect something unsafe to you.
I’ve been on the receiving end of pressure from managers who were supervising steep two story teams who had complaints about some files turned in for a steep two story team inspect with comments that my assigned adjuster should have inspected it. I strongly disagree. If you find a trend with an adjuster you are supervising showing they clearly cannot work a territory which consists of steep roofs but other indications are they are a great adjuster, my first course of action would be to see if there is another territory at the storm location with less steep roofs. Charleston, SC was one great example where downtown had horrific roofs to climb yet I could move adjusters to a different residential area easily thus keeping two great adjusters instead of the alternative of sending one home who couldn’t work the downtown area.
We wish you all a very safe storm season and very glad to see so many adjusters out in the field after two very dry years for most independent adjusters.