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New Lead Training Rule Shakes up Renovation Sector

Source: Construction Executive

Following pressure from construction businesses, industry trade groups including Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) and the National Association of Home Builders, and Republican & Democrat members of Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to delay enforcing its new Lead-Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting program.

The final rule implementing the program initially took effect in April, requiring contractors to be certified (through lead-safe training) to perform work that disturbs more than 6 feet of lead-based paint in a pre-1978 home, apartment, school, daycare center or other facility occupied by a pregnant woman or child under the age of 6.

Now, per a memorandum from the EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement, the agency has stated it will withhold enforcement action against firms for violating the rule’s certification requirement until October. Enforecement action will not be taken against individual renovation workers who have applied for or enrolled in training classes by September 30.

To comply, both general contractors and subcontractors working on a renovation covered by the rule must be certified and must have a certified individual work on affected portions of the job. To become certified, contractors must apply with the EPA every five years (at a cost of $300) and pay for employees to complete an agency-approved training course on lead-safe work practices.

Initially, contractors were exempt from the program requirements if a homeowner certified that no pregnant women or children under the age of 6 occupied the residence, but that provision has since been eliminated.

As of April 22, the EPA had accredited only 204 training providers nationwide – making it difficult for many construction businesses to access and complete training before the deadline. Several chapters of ABC in California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire/Vermont, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Utah can offer accredited courses; other trainers can be located at www.epa.gov/getleadsafe.

The expenses incurred by companies to comply add another financial burden. However, the price of noncompliance is much greater: Fines can reach up to $37500 a day.

Despite pushback from legislators and industry members, the EPA is moving forward with more lead regulations. It recently issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require contractors to perform post-renovation dust-wipe testing and to provide the results to building owners and occupants. The rule is expected to be finalized by July 2011.

The agency also issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking announcing its intention to apply lead-safe work practices to renovations on public and commercial buildings. If EPA investigations reveal lead-based paint hazards exist in public and commercial buildings, a proposed regulation is likely to follow in December, 2011, with a potential effective date of July 2013.

For updates on how these proposed rules play out, visit www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm or www.abc.org/rulemakings.