EPA Lead-Paint Rule is Now a Reality

Malingerers and procrastinators take notice. Next month, April 22 to be more precise, the time for all of the hand-wringing and consternation will have ended, and the time for action will have officially begun. If you are reading this and you have not yet begun to take the steps necessary to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new lead-safe work practices rule, you are going to have to work fast. And while there is no need for panic, there are a series of concrete steps you need to take to quickly come into compliance.

This month, I interview Stephen J. Klein, a remodeler who is also president of Kachina Lead Paint Solutions, www.kachinaleadpaintsolutions.com. He provides a “quick start” guide for the many thousands of you who have yet to take the first steps. I won’t get into all of the details here but you can find them on pg. 62. In brief, you need to get your company certified; then you need to get your people certified. It takes some time, but not as much as you think.

One piece of advice from Klein that really hit home with me: The president and owner of the firm need to get trained. This is not to suggest that you should be the certified renovator who performs clearance testing on all of your jobs, though many will want to keep a close eye on the process as it gets rolling. Instead, presidents and owners need to get trained so they can fully understand the massive complexity of the rule. As president or owner of a remodeling or home improvement company, only you can be the one who makes a series of decisions — judgment calls — as to how your firm can best comply with the new rule. Only you are in the best position to strike a balance between the letter of compliance and the best way to offer your services in a price-efficient manner.

Here’s a good example: Some companies will want to train their salespeople to handle the initial testing. Others may decide to have two or three steady field employees handle the task of testing for all jobs in the company — two different models, two different cost structures, both comply with the new rule. This is just one of a series of decisions that you need to make and all are important.

The scary point about this new requirement on all remodelers who work in homes built before 1978 is not the fear of government regulators. Though the fines are stiff, $37,500 per project per day, the chance of being audited by the EPA is minimal. The real threat to your business is presented by an unhappy customer and his very thorough attorney. A customer who is unhappy about delays on a project could use the required lead-safe work practices as a way to catch you off guard. It could be a way to get you to compensate them for their unhappiness. You need to have your paperwork and your systems and processes ready to go on April 22 or you expose yourself to a range of possible negative consequences. Seek out partners like Kachina, or you can get started with a fairly comprehensive site offered by the government at www.epa.gov/lead.

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