New Lead-paint Guidelines Coming

We all know it is a good idea to keep the jobsite clean for customer satisfaction, but the new lead-dust guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will mandate cleaning practices for remodelers in the near future. The regulations, although they don’t take effect fully until 2010, will significantly change how we look at projects.

The EPA will require remodelers to educate and protect their clients while doing demolition work or paint removal in areas where surfaces are covered with lead-based paints. While not a radical departure from practices many have adopted to keep a jobsite clean, the prescriptive path to meeting these guidelines for remodelers will require commitment and funding.

When we start talking about increasing time on a jobsite, we see the dollars add up. Combining this with taking the time to educate your team, buying new equipment and additional jobsite consumable materials, you become concerned with whether you will recoup the initial costs.

However, these are going to affect remodelers equally. Non-compliance is not an option. Either you follow the rules or face fines and potential litigation for knowingly exposing your clients to toxic substances. According to the EPA, this affects 40 percent of the housing stock in the United States and even a higher percentage in older construction or historic neighborhoods.

According to the guidelines, if the paint is 0.5 percent (5,000 ppm) or more by dry weight and you remove more than 2 sq. ft. per component, you will be required to follow the new guidelines. More important, you will need somebody on your team who is EPA certified to inspect your setups. This individual does not need to be present during all of the work that is done; however, they do need to signoff on the containment practices and do testing at the end to ensure that the area is clean.

Here is a rundown on what the new EPA guidelines entail:

  1. Educate your clients on the hazards of lead and emphasize that they can stay safe by avoiding the work area completely.
  2. Eliminate the potential for dust to travel from the work site by tenting both indoors and outdoors. Cover or disable HVAC systems and close windows to prevent dust from escaping.
  3. Use disposable dropcloths on the ground to catch any chips or dust that settles. Dispose of them after the job. Reusing dropcloths transfers lead dust from jobsite to jobsite.
  4. Make sure that your contractors are wearing protective gear including a NIOSH N100 (HEPA) rated mask. When they exit the work space they must vacuum their clothes with a HEPA-equipped vacuum (or better, wear disposable coveralls).
  5. When using any powered hand tool to strip paint, it must be equipped with a dust shroud or have integrated dust extraction, and it must be attached to a vacuum with HEPA filters.
  6. Stay away from power washing or using heat guns over 1,000 degrees F. The former washes the lead into the ground, and the latter can release it into the air.
  7. When finished with the job, ensure that the work site is clean and dust-free before tearing down your containment area.

What equipment should you look for to get up and running?

  • Look for tools with dust extraction that works. Whatever is not caught by the tool is something you’re going to have to clean up before you are through.
  • Look for a vacuum that comes standard with HEPA filters. Additionally, something with bags that you can seal and dispose of is ideal. Lead removal is not a catch and release sort of process. Once you have it contained it is better that it stays that way.
  • A cleaning set for the vacuum to remove any dust that escapes and settles.
  • NIOSH N100 (HEPA) rated masks for workers.
  • Lots of plastic sheeting, disposable drop cloths and tape.

For the full guidelines visit the EPA online at www.epa.gov/lead. Do some research, since your state, municipality or OSHA may have more stringent guidelines. Getting onboard early will give your team experience and allow you to sell peace of mind when others are just getting up to speed.

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