Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lead rule and contractors: the survival of the fittest!

Since June 23, 2008, under the authority of the Toxic Substance Control Act (section 402 (C) (3) residential and commercial renovators are required to distribute a lead hazard information pamphlet to the owners and administrators of child-occupied buildings before beginning renovations in them. The RRP, which stands for Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule, applies to buildings built before 1978 and it intends to reduce the amount of lead paint dust created by renovation projects which disturb more than six square feet of surface for interior renovations (two sq ft in HUD) or twenty square feet if the work takes place in the exterior.

The new EPA rule became finally mandatory in June 2010. Since then, contractors must be EPA-certified and follow specific work practices to prevent contamination, including covering floors with plastic sheeting, dressing workers in protective clothing, and carefully disposing of tainted debris. The personal protective equipment (PPE) includes disposable gloves, goggles, HEPA respirator, booties and disposable coveralls. They must also test for surface contaminants when the work is finished and keep records that document their efforts and confirm the absence of lead-based paint. Violators could be fined as much as $37,500 per day per incident.

Lead, is a dense, relatively soft, malleable metal with low tensile strength. It used to be present mainly in paint products. Pounds of plastic to deal with micrograms of lead? The entire danger of lead poisoning in children is way over blown. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention the number of children affected by lead poisoning has decreased exponentially since the 1970's accounting to less than 150,000 cases a year.

Comparatively let me consider a similar threat: bed bugs. These culprits, the size of .2" or ½ cm are tiny but they can be seen by the naked eye through careful observation. Lead dust, however, is much smaller in size and thus, lead containment becomes very difficult indeed not to mention its complete and permanent removal from a worksite which must be performed by a lead qualified abatement contractor.

Nobody in the right mind can deny the poisoning effect of ingested lead on children and to lesser extend on adults. The studies are conclusive to identify any dose above 10 micrograms/deciliter of blood as lethal; nonetheless, the entire lead legislation still remains a sore spot for compliant remodeling contractors: By following the EPA demands they become more expensive and less competitive. Oftentimes, losing the job to other less scrupulous contractors.

As it was not difficult enough to sell work in the past if you were a remodeler!. Nowadays, consumers are ruthless, feeling it is a buyers' market, and they almost always make their decisions based on price as the main and possibly only factor rather than work quality, workmanship or credentials, which is a huge mistake.
A recent renovation of a Burlington, VT apartment, which was done according to the new EPA lead rules, took the remodeling company's workers  two hours to demolish — and another six hours to clean up. At the very least, this new Federal lead law makes home remodeling in older dwellings a lot more expensive and cumbersome.

According to a very conservative estimate from the EPA a 10 to 20 increase to the contractors' bottom line should be expected, explained Jim Verzino, a Lead Certified trainer for the State of CT and MA.  For instance, if I have an eight-hour day, at least two of that will be prep and cleanup. I can anticipate easily costing an extra $150 a day in labor and $80 in materials for a typical mid-size project.

Of course other variables affect the added cost depending on work size and job conditions. The lead dust containment will easily amount to 20 to 30% of the total cost. I have already submitted a couple of estimates stating the new figures for lead containment and clean-up to no avail: The clients in both instances took another bit. Does the RRP rule need some tweaking or partial revision more favorable to  hands-on professionals in the field? I believe the answer is "yes" and some changes in the rule are needed to include some of our concerns. It is about time that  big "brother" shows some respect to small businesses and their struggle to make ends meet. In the every day survival of the fittest we need a friendly hand to lift us up rather than causing us distress and more aggravation.
(ArticlesBase SC #3892089)

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1 comment:

  1. Good article John. Please remind your readers that the OSHA requirements for their states may be even more stringent than the current EPA's RRP rules for lead containment. In California for example, you are not allowed to do your own lead testing. All homes built prior to 1978 must be assumed to have lead paint and proper surface protection and lead containment procedures must be followed.