Remodeler Training to Meet New EPA Lead Paint Rule Lags
With the deadline approaching for remodelers and other contractors to be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported last week that there are now 99 approved training firms for the nearly 200,000 industry members needing to be trained.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Small Business Administration has weighed in on proposed additional changes to the agency’s lead paint rule, echoing NAHB comments that the compliance costs would encourage more home owners to do the work themselves rather than hire a certified remodeler. That, the SBA said, “could actually endanger children's health, not improve” it.
EPA representatives met at the National Housing Center on Dec. 3 with NAHB staff members and representatives from other trade associations and advocacy groups as part of NAHB’s communications and advocacy efforts on the new regulations.
The Renovation, Repair and Painting rule — which goes into effect in just four months — requires anyone working in homes built before 1978 and inhabited by small children or pregnant women to complete eight hours of training, use lead-safe practices and keep copious records of the work done.
So far, just over 4,000 people have completed training — a number that federal officials and industry representatives agree remains low. This has occurred for a number of reasons:
- Confusion over jurisdiction. It is not clear how many states will choose to administer their own lead paint training, monitoring and certification programs — leaving many remodelers questioning whether the federal training now available will qualify them to work in a specific state. Wisconsin, for example, has already ruled that any online training courses authorized by the U.S. EPA will not be applicable toward certification in that state.
Meanwhile, officials in Kansas have determined that a provision in the rule allowing certified contractors to more informally train their own employees will only apply to those contractors who are already accredited training providers. As a result, firms in the state will need more training and certification than the federal law requires.
- Confusion over requirements. The EPA has promised to provide fact sheets and other documents to clarify what kind of training is needed and by whom. Most groups have interpreted the rule to mean that all contractors — including HVAC and window installers, electricians, plumbers and painters — must be certified if the work they do disturbs more than six feet of painted surfaces in “target” housing. The EPA agrees that the rule is confusing.
- Lack of consumer awareness. NAHB has reiterated its concern that without a targeted public awareness campaign on the potential danger of not using a certified contractor, home owners will choose to use uncertified tradesmen or do the work themselves to save money. The EPA said it hopes to make an assortment of flyers and public service announcements available in the next few months.
In addition, larger remodeling firms and manufacturers that finalized their training budgets before the rule was announced are less likely to get the needed training until the next fiscal year, representatives told the EPA. And while federal weatherization program administrators have indicated that they are aware of the need for lead-based paint training requirements for those contractors making energy-efficiency improvements in older homes, no national program has yet been implemented.
The SBA comment letter slammed the EPA’s decision to remove the “opt-out” provision, which allows the owners of homes built before 1978 to choose a non-certified remodeler. Removing the provision makes nearly 70 million homes subject to the requirement.
Rather than making these homes safer, “EPA’s proposal would instead impede low-income residents from improving their residences by imposing unnecessarily costly requirements,” the SBA comments said.
“It seems overly burdensome for a window installer who is replacing a single window (or a wallpaperer disturbing more than six square feet) for a home with two resident 50-year-old adults to comply with the entire LRRP rule requirements, but that is exactly what EPA would be requiring here,” the SBA said.
“While some renovation activities can generate significant amounts of lead dust that could pose a human health hazard, there is not sufficient evidence that renovation activities by private contractors or building owner personnel, as opposed to home owners, contribute to an increased risk of elevated blood levels in children,” the letter said.
A list of approved training providers is available at the EPA Web site. A calendar of upcoming classes is available from the National Center for Healthy Housing. Additional information about the lead-based paint rule is also available at www.nahb.org/leadpaint.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.
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