After nearly four years of legal challenges and revisions, contractors and unions face stiffer federal safety mandates after April 22 for lead-paint dust containment in homes and public facilities built before 1978 that are occupied by children under the age of seven. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says its Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule will reduce child lead-poisoning levels, but some construction groups are concerned about added cost for small contractors as well as insufficient worker training around the U.S.
The rule, first proposed in 2006, requires renovation workers to be EPA-certified and sets new standards for site containment, protective clothing, waste disposal, record-keeping and safety verification. The mandate applies to all homes, even childless ones, but exempts homeowners from its requirements.
“While we support the intention of the rule and want to keep customers and employees safe, we remain concerned about the lack of EPA-approved trainers,” says Amy Chai, senior counsel of the National Association of Home Builders, which had challenged the rule. She says six states and Washington, D.C., have no accredited trainers available, a situation that could also slow energy efficiency work.
The painters’ union launched three new classes in January to expand its numbers of certified members and trainers but has also been preparing for the new rules since last June, says Dan Penski, director of the union’s Finishing Trades Institute, its training arm. “There will be initial costs to set this up, but it will be made up in the long run,” he says.