Getting the lead out: Construction Law

by | Jan 10, 2012 | Defective Work

About a year ago, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) Lead-Based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting Program (RRP) when into effect. The RRP is a Federal regulatory program affecting contractors and others that provide remodeling, repair, and related work, that “disturbs” painted surfaces in residential homes, apartments, and schools and day-care type facilities, among others, constructed prior to 1978.

Most contractors who regularly perform renovation and repair work on pre-1978 structures subject to the RRP are most likely already up to speed on its requirements. However, the post-boom economy has pushed many contractors to bid work they would not have considered in years past, and there are those contractors who only occasionally take on a renovation job.  Either way, contractors need to be sure they have a basic understanding of the RRP.

According to the EPA, lead based paint was used in upwards of 38 million homes up until it was prohibited in 1978.  Activities such as sanding, cutting and demolition, commonly required in renovation or repair work, often create lead dust. When lead dust is absorbed by the human body, specially a child’s body, it can according to the EPA create a myriad of negative health issues.  If that isn’t enough reason to learn about the RRP, also consider that the EPA has the power to punish violators with penalties of up to $37,500 per day, per violation in the most serious of cases.

So, what does the RRP entail? It applies to any activity, performed for compensation, that disturbs paint in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities, including but not limited to remodeling, repair, maintenance, electrical work, plumbing,  certain painting, carpentry, and window replacement whether performed by a general contractor or trade contractor. Note that the applicability of the RRP has exceptions, including but not limited to, minor repair that disturbs only 6 square feet or less of paint per room on an interior or 20 square feet or less on the exterior, work on studio apartments, and housing that has been declared lead-free by a certified inspector, etc.

If a contractor wanst to perform work subject to the RRP (“RRP work”) the contractor must first become certified under the RRP by submitting a completed “Application for Firms” and paying the correct fee to the EPA (current fees appear to  range approximately from $300.00 to $550.00).

All individuals performing RRP work on behalf of a certified firm must either be “certified renovators” or must have been trained by a certified renovator. An individual becomes a certified renovator by successfully completing an eight-hour training course through an accredited training provider.  A certified renovator must be assigned to each renovation job.

Prior to starting RRP work, a certified firm must fulfill the RRP’s pre-renovation education requirements, depending on the type of structure to be renovated, which generally require distributing the EPA’s pamphlet and/or notices, among other potential activities, intended to notify the occupants of the facility of the nature of the work, location of the work and lead based paint hazards related to the work. After notification, the certified contractor must obtain a receipt of the notification from the occupant and maintaining the record(s) for three years.

During the work, the EPA’s “lead-safe” work practices must be followed.  These practices generally include, containment procedures to prevent dust and debris from leaving the work area, prohibition of certain construction techniques, such as, open-flame burning and the use of power tools without HEPA exhaust control, and clean up designed to minimize exposure to lead-based paint.

The conclusion is clear.  A contractor who performs such work should become certified under the RRP and depending on the extent of the company’s jobs, should have at least one certified renovator capable of implementing the RRP’s requirements.  If you need additional information, take a look at the EPA’s website, safe than sorry.

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