Saturday, June 23, 2007

Significant Expansion of the RRP

Pop Quiz!!

What is the over all goal of EPA’s comprehensive set of lead regulations called Title X?

Answer: To eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2010.

With this in mind, it should be no surprise that during an almost two year long process of developing a regulation controlling exposure to lead on remodeling projects that the EPA would hoist the weight of their lofty goal directly upon the backs of the remodeling contractors across the country.

Let’s not forget that contractors in business today do not use lead based paint and subsequently did not create the lead paint hazards plaguing our industry. Nor are we specifically hired to remove any such hazards.

Earlier this year I talked about holding on to your hat due to the amount of activity on the RRP. Now would be one of those times.

On June 5, 2007, the EPA released a revised “Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule” (RRP). This revision expanded the scope of the RRP to include what the EPA calls ‘child occupied facilities.’

The EPA has concocted a typically governmental definition of a child occupied facility (COF). Basically, a COF is any building wear a child under six spends at least 3 hours per week for a minimum of 60 hours per year.

Schools, day care facilities, hospitals, the piano teacher’s house, dance studios, churches, grandma’s house are all included in this new scope. The RRP is not just for contractors working in old houses anymore. It has crossed into the commercial remodeling sector.

Additionally, the notification requirements that contractors must comply have expanded.

The revised RRP includes provisions requiring contractors to notify the parents or guardians of all children who meet the minimum hours of occupation in the building where the work is to take place. Contractors are to tell parents and guardians the project scope, dust control measures and the expected completion date of the project.

Just think of the time a contractor would have to spend answering the onslaught of questions from thirty to forty parents as to the potential health risks to their children and the precautions the contractor will take to safe guard their children from those risks during the renovations of say an elementary school, a hospital childrens' ward, etc.

Just think about the liability for not doing so. How much time would you spend defending a multi-party lawsuit for not following these very prescriptive requirements?

Still have your hat?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Safe Enough for a Three Year Old

After being contacted by Cati O’Keefe with Remodeling Magazine to schedule time to speak about job site cleanliness and safety on remodeling projects, I asked myself the question, “How clean is safe?” The answer came to me a couple days later when I installed some recessed lighting in my own home.

My wife and I are blessed with twin boys that happen to be 3 years old. After answering them at least twenty times as to why I had to go into the attic, I found myself working in such a fashion that my boys could be around watching and ‘helping’.

For the record, my house was built in 1994. So, there is no threat of exposure to lead based paint. There was however, the expected amount of drywall dust generated during the removal of the surface mount outlet boxes and the cutting of holes for the new fixtures.

During the installation of three recessed lights in our upstairs hallway, I vacuumed no less than four times; once after preparing each new opening and once again at the completion of the project. At no time was there debris on the floor. Keeping the work area this clean and safe allowed my boys to be around.

I realize that this work process did take longer to complete than it could have, but it was well worth it to have my little helpers there.

This experience kept me thinking about my discussion with Ms. O’Keefe. Costumers continually complain about how messy their remodeling projects were. The EPA is moving ahead on mandating lead safe work practices. How does a remodeler know they are working safely and cleanly?

The simple answer to this the question, “Safe enough for a three year old.”

On projects where this is just not feasible, install physical barriers, such as visqueen plastic to keep occupants from entering the work space. Your contract may need to stipulate that occupants must be out of the house during certain phases of the project: demolition, drywall sanding, window installation, etc.

If workers manage their work processes and job site such that if a three year happened walk through it would be no big deal. Doing so is much safer for the worker, more productive for the contractor and provides a better remodeling experience for your customers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Go for Gold

“Professional remodeling following LSWP remains the gold standard for home renovation…,” according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

In comments submitted to the EPA regarding the proposed “Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule,” on April 16, 2007, the NAHB puts forth two points that again show that only trained professionals should do remodeling.

Point One:

“Remodeling Using Lead Safe Work Practices Improves a Home’s Condition”

According to results from the 2006 NAHB lead study where workers followed EPA’s suggested lead safe work practices (LSWP) or what are called ‘modified’ lead safe work practices, a remodeling project is ‘cleaner’ then if the workers used standard remodeling work and clean up techniques, such as the woefully inadequate term, “broom swept.”

Some specific LSWP include:

· Repeated use of HEPA filter equipped vacuums.
· Wet-wiping of the work area.
· Use of 6-mil plastic.
· Misting surfaces before removing, cutting or scraping.

Other methods can be used as part of an overall LSWP strategy. The NAHB understands there are additional costs in using LSWP, but asserts the benefit to health and safety out weigh those costs.

Only trained professionals will know the proper lead safe methods to employ on a given project. All too often, reports of a child being lead poisoned come from a story where a homeowner or untrained contractor unknowingly creates and leaves behind a lead hazard.

Point Two:

“Encourage Trained Remodeling Work in Target Housing”

Here again, the NAHB asserts the need for remodelers to be trained on LSWP. Having remodeling completed by trained professionals not only improves the value of the house and improves the quality of life for the occupants, but increases the “…safety value of a home.” Scoring this hat trick for occupants certainly shows that hiring a professional to do your remodeling makes the most sense.

Offer your clients the Gold Level of service -- get trained in LSWP.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gotta Love Those Loop Holes

If you are like most people, reading federal regulations is not something you do on a regular basis. Doing so can definitely lead one to want to chew on aluminum foil, get your teeth cleaned or some other such relatively fun activity. However, if you can bare reading through certain regulations you can not only find little gold nuggets of information to improve your production, you can find lovely little loop holes to boost your profits.

OSHA’s 29CFR 1910.134 Respirator Protection is one such regulation. It provides valuable information for companies whose workers must wear respirators and has one of those loops holes that helps residential remodeling companies avoid the expense of complying with all the stipulations of the Respirator Protection regulation.

1910.134 has three main goals:

1. Advise workers on the types of respirators available.
2. Institute medical surveillance of workers before they wear a respirator.
3. Provide methods of ‘fit testing’ ensuring workers are protected.

The Respirator Protection regulation further requires employers to develop and maintain a written respirator protection program when respirators are required. So, the next obvious question is, “Are respirators required on your remodeling jobs?”

For those of you that do have workers wearing charcoal filtered respirators such as those worn during painting activities using airless or HVLP the answer is yes.

If your operations are those typically found in residential remodeling projects around the county, those that create dust or are potentially exposed to mold or lead dust, the answer is no.

Why is the answer no? Well, after slogging through the Respirator Protection regulation you will come across section 1910.134(c)(2)(ii). The second sentence of this section states, “Exception: Employers are not required to include a written respiratory protection program for those employees whose only use of respirators involves the voluntary use of filtering face pieces (dust masks).”

Translation: Loop hole.

Well, sort of. You still need to look out for the respiratory safety of your workers. You do not necessarily need a written respirator protection program if your employees only wear dust masks. But, we all know that the run of the mill dust mask isn’t worth a darn. There is a dust mask that provides a high level of protection for workers and thus allows you to drive through the loop hole.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) does have standards for dust masks. The type of dust mask that provides protection against lead particles and has a HEPA rating is a NIOSHA N100 dust mask.

If you want to protect your workers and avoid the costs of designing, implementing and maintaining a costly written respirator protection program, run out and buy your workers NIOSH N100 dust masks. Be sure to train them on the proper use of these personal protective devices and the potential health hazards for not wearing them.

For further information as to whether respirators are required, refer to the MSDS sheets of the products you workers are using. For those of you merely performing tasks where you are exposed to mold, lead dust or other types of remodeling dust, the N100 dust mask is just the ticket.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

$31.4 Million Dollars to Clean Up Lead

With all the lead and dust talk lately focusing on the EPA, I would be remiss if I did not give kudos to HUD for continuing its efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2010 (EPA’s unattainable goal date). In a press release dated January 5, 2007 HUD announced this year’s recipients of $31.4 million dollars in Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Grant funding.

According to Secretary Alphonso Jackson, "The communities receiving grants today have demonstrated that they are fully committed to making their older housing safer and healthier places for children."

This year’s grants were issued to 12 cities and counties throughout the United States. These programs will provide community education, homeowner awareness training, contractor lead safe work practices (LSWP) training and fund actual renovations to what are known as ‘target housing’ -- housing built before 1978 with a child under the age of six living there.

Remodelers will find interesting that these programs provide what is known as HUD’s 3R’s training. This training is almost the exact LSWP training required in EPA’s proposed Renovation, Repair and Painting Proposed Rule. With these classes being mandated in the future, taking them now will give you a jump start on your competition.

The best news is that taking one of these training sessions is free and gives your workers the training necessary to bid on the actual renovation projects funded by this program

To see the list of cities and counties receiving HUD’s Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Grant funding this year click the link ‘here’.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Hold on to Your Hat

Back in November I said the wheels of the RRP are in motion. And man, are they. Do you have your hat?

The EPA released its second major study examining lead exposure during remodeling projects on January 23, 2007. The report is succinctly titled Draft Final Report on Characterization of Dust Lead Levels After Renovation, Repair and Painting Activities as prepared by Battelle in Columbus, Ohio. This report can be downloaded by clicking ‘here’. Here is what the report found. Still have your hat?

In the summary of conclusions, the EPA states, “Application of the package of plastic protective sheeting, HEPA vacuuming and wet mopping, and cleaning verification practices in EPA’s proposed rule did result in lower lead levels at the end of a job than were achieved using baseline practices (no plastic protective sheeting and cleaning with a broom and a shop-vacuum vacuum).” Where’s my hat?

So, the EPA commissioned another study that reinforced what NAHB’s study reinforced and something every mother in America knows. If you work in such a way as to not make a mess, then clean up the mess there is no mess: clean as you work! I found my hat. I’ve had it on the whole time waiting for something to blow it off.

Thus far, the only thing even remotely close to doing this is the meeting of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Lead Review Panel. This group of medical doctors, pathologists, and Ph.D’s in metallurgy and toxicology will be getting together in North Carolina on February 6th and 7th. This is the panel that helps the EPA establish the amount of lead in someone’s blood to be considered an elevated blood-lead level (EBL).

Their agenda includes discussion of the proposed lead rule and review of EPA’s and NAHB’s recent lead studies. Rumor has it that they are trying to establish a correlation between IQ levels in children and renovation activities. As CASAC meets fairly regularly, we’ll have to see what they come up with.

I’m holding on to my hat…

Monday, November 20, 2006

The RRP: Where are We Now?

You may recall that the EPA proposed a new regulation on lead for the remodeling industry in January of 2006 called the Renovation, Repair and Painting Program. This proposed rule is commonly being referred to as the RRP. Generally speaking it contains mandated work practices and requires certification of workers and companies that disturb more than two-square feet of painted surfaces in target-housing -- houses built before 1978 that might contain lead-based paint. This rule is moving forward. So, where are we now?

Members of the NAHB Lead-Based Paint Task Force (LBPTF) met with EPA in November of 2006 to discuss this rule and present the results of a study looking at lead-dust generation commissioned by the NAHB. These discussions did not reveal EPA’s intentions on when they plan to enact this proposed rule or what the requirements of the final rule will be, but Jim Gulliford, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides and toxic substances, did assert, ”The EPA wants an effective and efficient rule.” Hopefully, the results of the NAHB study will have a positive effect on what the final RRP looks like.

The NAHB conducted a study titled, "“Lead Safe Work Practices Project Survey Report,” which established that houses have less of a lead-dust hazard after remodeling than before, with only one exception. That exception is if a worker performs what the study identifies as ‘uncontrolled sanding’ or sanding using a power tool without supplemental or an integrated dust collection system, i.e. vacuum attachment. Lead-dust levels where lower in nine of the eleven activities measured by the study. The two activities that showed an increase in lead-dust were those where ‘uncontrolled sanding’ took place.

As a result of the lead study, the NAHB has made recommendations of what activities remodelers should not to do on remodeling projects. These recommendations follow right along with the list of prohibited practices established by HUD in 2000: no powered sanding or grinding without an attached HEPA filtered vacuum attachment, no open flame burning, no abrasive blasting or sandblasting, no use of heat guns that operate above 1100-degrees Fahrenheit, no use of volatile paint strippers and lastly no dry sanding or scraping. It is further suggested to incorporate the EPA’s suggested good work practices during remodeling on your projects. This list can be found at:

If you are a typical remodeler, you do not perform most of these activities. You may be saying to yourself, “Well if the study shows typical remodeling activities do not create more of a lead hazard and remodelers do not perform the types of activities that do, why do we need the RRP?” The answer is simple: lead is harmful and children all across the nation are still poisoned each year by it. This is why the EPA is adamant that such a rule is enacted and why remodelers must prepare themselves for the day this rule goes into affect. Additionally, the EPA is getting appreciable pressure from a group of congressman lead by Senator Barack Obama (D) from Illinois to release the RRP. The EPA has more than a few issues to work through to make an effective and efficient regulation over and above political pressure.

First, the NAHB study shows that typical remodeling activities do not create a lead hazard. The stated goal of the RRP is to ensure that lead hazards are not created and left behind on remodeling projects. Thus, looking at the results of the NAHB study a logical question is, “Do we need the RRP?” Second, the RRP does not address over half of the remodeling activities done in this county by the do-it-yourselfer. This issue is something the EPA will need to take a serious look at if it is committed to eliminating child lead-poisoning. And third, the EPA will need to analyze its own recently commissioned study. The results of which are not expected until early 2007.

So hold to your hats for the dust storm of the RRP is brewing in DC. The wheels are in motion on the RRP and the EPA will enact this rule sometime in the future. The LBPTF will stay vigilant that the EPA does not promulgate an onerous regulation upon the remodeling industry. A restrictive regulation would increase the cost of remodeling and provide an incentive for homeowners to do more of their own work or hire less professional contractors. This in turn could lead to the possibility of even more children getting lead-poisoned -- the exact issue the EPA is attempting to eliminate.

The best guess is that the final rule will not be published until at least 2008. Stay tuned for further updates…