New EPA lead rules to affect residential installations

Training and certification on lead-safe practices will be required for work on pre-1978 homes
Katy Devlin
January 7, 2010
RETAIL : CODES & STANDARDS
For more information about the EPA's new lead paint requirements, tune into the National Glass Association’s Window & Door Dealers Alliance lead paint Webinar Feb. 9. To access the Webinar after Feb. 9, visit www.MyWindowClass.com.

In April 2010, new Environmental Protection Agency rules go into effect requiring contractors completing work on pre-1978 properties to become certified in lead-safe work practices and follow specific steps onsite to prevent lead contamination. The rules will affect companies doing window and door replacements, and residential glass installations, and failure to follow the practices could result in hefty fines of up to $37,500 per day, per violation.

Many residential contractors are still unaware of the new requirements, industry executives report. And many who are aware of the requirements are concerned about the costs involved and the potential impact on their businesses.

“From what I’ve seen, there is little to no awareness of this issue in the industry,” says Matt Rumbaugh, division manager of education and training for the National Glass Association, McLean, Va. “We first became aware of it through some members of our steering committee for the new Window and Door Dealers Alliance. … But I was on another call lately where this issue was mentioned and someone said to me ‘I haven’t heard anything about this…is this as bad as I think it is?’ My answer was probably not, but you better get up to speed just in case. The new rules take effect April 22, which will be here before you know it.”

The requirements

A compliance guide for the new rules is available for download from the EPA Web site. The Renovator and Trainer Tool Box page on the site also provides further information on the new rules, forms, sources for training and a download of the Renovate Right brochure designed for contractors to provide to homeowners.

The EPA issued the new rules and practices in April 2008. The first phase of the rules went into effect in December 2008, requiring contractors to provide owners, tenants and child-care facilities with a copy of EPA’s lead hazard information pamphlet.

A compliance guide for the new rules is available for download from the EPA Web site at http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/
sbcomplianceguide.pdf
. The Renovator and Trainer Tool Box page on the site also provides further information on the new rules, forms, sources for training and a download of the Renovate Right brochure,
http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/toolkits.htm
designed for contractors to provide to homeowners.

The second, more stringent phase, goes into effect in April 2010, and mandates that contractors working on pre-1978 properties "take the proper precautions to work lead-safe, including minimizing the dust, containing the work area, and conducting a thorough cleanup to reduce the potential exposure associated with disturbing lead-based paint," according to the EPA.

Under the new lead-safe rules, contractors should take lead-safe work practices training, and then be certified. On the job site, contractors should take several steps, including: provide a copy of the EPA training certificate to the customer, tell the customer about the lead-safe methods, ask the customer for any previous lead test results, and keep records that show employee training in lead-safe practices and the use of the practices on the job, according to the EPA. Contractors must apply for certification through the EPA. For the application, visit http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/lead/pubs/firmapp.pdf

Industry concerns

“Since the rules mainly impact houses built before 1978, the effects on businesses will vary,” Rumbaugh says. “If your business is mostly window replacement, then it’s definitely going to be a factor for you, especially if there’s not a lot of new construction around you. One business owner I spoke with mentioned that he expects this to add 40 percent to his labor cost. I don’t know if that will be across the board or not, but if it turns out to be accurate, then that’s a staggering number. For most commercial businesses that focus on new construction, I wouldn’t expect this would be a huge issue, but if you work on smaller storefront products or shower door installation, you may run into this.”

Contractors caught in violation of the rules could receive a penalty up to $37,500 per day, per violation, says Brian Zimmerman, executive vice president, Gorell Windows & Doors, a replacement window manufacturer based in Indiana, Pa. He says awareness should be a top priority for contractors at the moment. “We’ve been surprised at how few of our customers know about the rules. There are customers that have been at the forefront, handing out the pamphlets, getting certified. But, for other companies, smaller companies, or those that sub out the installations, you get the impression that they haven’t been handing out pamphlets, that they don’t know about the new rules,” he says.

Jim Lett, owner, A.B.E. Doors & Windows, a dealer based in Allentown, Pa., agrees. “Currently, we’re supposed to be handing out booklets with every job for a home built before 1978. Very few people are aware of the responsibility,” he says.

Lett, who attended the day-long lead-safe training and plans to send his employees to do the same, says the rules will add at least several hundred dollars to a job  because of increased time and materials needed to complete the lead-safe practices. “A contractor will need to send someone ahead of time to prep, move everything out of the area, put the plastic down. We’ll have to put cones up, tape around the outside.”

EPA is also considering requiring third-party inspections, which would add $500 to $700 to verify that the space was cleaned correctly, Lett adds.

“Lead paint has health issues for people. We don’t want the EPA to back off on the legislation, but we do want to make sure that the legislation is realistic,” Zimmerman says. “These procedures could add a lot of cost and make some projects cost prohibitive for homeowners.”

The increased costs will not go over easily with homeowners, says Tom Higgins, owner, Superior Products Siding, Littleton, Colo. “This recession is a hardship on all families,” he says. “I’ve never had a time where consumers are trying to find more reasons to not pay me on the back end of a job.”

Lett says small jobs will likely be the most affected. “On a small job, just one or two windows, the cost is just $500 installed," he says."Homeowners aren’t going to want to add several hundred more dollars to that. That is what’s really burdensome, and I don’t think the EPA realizes, and I don’t think most contractors are aware that this burden is being placed on us.”

Lett expects many homeowners to either forgo the project or find a contractor willing to take a chance and not follow the regulations. “That’s a concern, that this is going to really affect the legitimate businessman,” he says.

Higgins agrees. “There is no doubt in my mind that some contractors will ignore the [new rules]. It’s already going on—people turn their back on asbestos,” he says. On the other hand, he foresees some business owners will be tempted to avoid pre-1978 projects. “Closing contracts could be very difficult. I’m sure some businesses will work with homes only above 1978.”

Zimmerman agrees, and says the new laws may provide an opportunity. “There will be companies that say, ‘I don’t want to go through the expense; I don’t want to make all installers certified.’ They will avoid homes that are pre 1978,” he says. “However, if you do go through the motions and get trained, you can have a niche there with decreased competition. It will be a good differentiator from the truck and ladder guy who hasn’t kept up with regulations.”
 

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at kdevlin@glass.org.