Occasionally, you’ll find yourself at the mercy of the local inspector on any contracting job that you do. Make the investment in training time for you, your supervisors, and estimators to become knowledgeable in the local codes. Make it a policy to adhere to plans. Obtain all required permits. Establish a professional working relationship with the inspectors in the areas where you do repeat work. Know their individual areas of enhanced inspections, learn what they like to see most on jobs, and what they think is most (and least) important. If you anticipate problems with an inspector on a particular job that may cost you money, adjust your estimate to compensate.

You must be knowledgeable about the building codes in each geographic area where you do business. Ignorance or misinterpretation of code requirements can be costly. If you’re not sure of code requirements in any aspect of the job, investigate. Repeated violations in adhering to code in an industry where you make your living are inexcusable. Know the licensing, insurance and permitting requirements of the state in which you operate your business.

Using an approximate or average figure in your estimate for permit fees may be a financial gamble for a job in an area you’re not familiar with. Each municipality uses its own formula for determining the cost of the permit - by the job, or by amperage, by the square footage, or other factors. Check with the permit office instead of guessing. Work with your trade association to try to standardize the permit fees to eliminate doubt and confusion. When available, permitting services can prove to be time and money savers.

There are seminars offered regularly on changes in the National Electrical Code (NEC), local codes and other information relevant to your business or industry. Many are sponsored by organizations that have the information needed quickly and are prepared to share it with you effectively. Maintain an awareness of all building code changes as they affect your business.

Safety standards are as important as building codes in many types of work. If your firm works in classified hazardous areas, from elevated heights, or makes use of construction cranes, you need to keep up-to-date on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) construction safety standards. When your firm is heavily engaged in maintenance-type activities, other standards such as the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 70E and NFPA 101 should be on your supervisor’s training plans. When accidents occur, OSHA fines are just the beginning of your legal troubles. Develop and see that your firm’s safety policy is not just given lip service, but also truly complied with.

Mike Holt’s Comment: This newsletter was extracted from my Business Management and Management Skills’ Workbook. Watch for our next newsletter, and as always, we encourage your comments and feedback. Send us your real-life experiences. Please respond to

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