Many buildings containing lead-based paint are being renovated, and the mere act of renovation poses serious health threats to young children and pregnant women. In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act regarding “lead-based paint hazards created by renovation, repair, and painting activities that disturb lead-based paint in target housing and child-occupied facilities.” The rule, which has an effective date of April 2010, directly affects general and specialty contractors by requiring them to be certified if they are performing work on a targeted facility and to provide warnings to let people know of the hazards.
What projects are covered?
The rule generally applies to renovation of any housing constructed prior to 1978 and any public or commercial facility constructed prior to 1978 where children are present on a regular basis, such as a day care center or school. Exemptions include minor repair or maintenance work involving an area no larger than 6 sq. ft. of interior painted surface (20 sq. ft. for exterior), renovations by an owner to their own residence or a certification that the work area is free of lead-based paint (as determined using an EPA recognized test kit). Some housing may also be exempt if it is shown that no child under the age of 6 or pregnant woman resides or regularly visits there.
Who does the rule apply to?
Not only does the rule affect general contractors, but it also applies to any specialty contractor that in the course of their work may disturb a surface that could have lead-based paint. This would include plumbing, painting, HVAC, electrical, finish carpentry, drywall, insulation, siding, tile, glass and glazing, as well as others. (It would be advisable for general contractors to verify compliance by their subcontractors by obtaining a copy of their certification.)
What is the contractor required to do?
The rule requires that anyone doing renovation on targeted facilities obtain certification that evidences they are trained in the use of lead safe work practices and that they will follow specific work practices when performing the renovation. What this means to you is: (a) your company must receive certification, (b) a certified renovator must be assigned to each renovation of a covered facility; (c) all persons performing work on the project must receive on-the-job training by a certified renovator; (d) all renovations must be performed in accordance with the EPA work practice standards related to lead-based paint; (e) you must provide the owner and occupants of the property with an EPA pamphlet advising them of the lead hazards associated with renovation and obtain a signed certificate of receipt; and (f) you must keep records of compliance on all projects.
How and when does a contractor get certified?
Training programs will be approved by the EPA and will be available to contractors as early as April 2009. You can apply for certification as early as October 2009 and you MUST be certified by April 2010. After that date, you can’t perform renovations to a targeted project unless you are certified or an exemption applies. Certifications must be renewed every five years.
Enforcement and liability
It is unclear exactly how enforcement will take place. Suffice it to say that if a property owner is injured as a result of lead-based paint exposure during or after a renovation, your certification and paperwork better be in order. And you may be liable for personal injuries if you fail to perform the work in compliance with the EPA standards. It may also be advisable to modify your home improvement contracts to include information regarding lead hazards and a limitation on your liability.
For more information you can visit the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/leadinfo.htm#remodeling. Here you will find a prerenovation disclosure form and a sample record-keeping checklist which will help you with compliance. You can also view the rule details in the Federal Register at http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-TOX/2008/April/Day-22/t8141.pdf which has detailed information regarding the requirements and exemptions.