Keeping Wisconsin RRP Rule Revenues In Wisconsin

No matter whether you’re on the right wing or left wing of politics, or somewhere in the center, or no matter whether you think the EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule is a great idea or a terrible one, any Wisconsin resident or Wisconsin-based business should lobby their legislators to support AB 479, a bill that aims to keep the state’s RRP rule revenues in Wisconsin.

AB 479 was recently introduced in the Wisconsin legislature by Rep. Tom Larson. The bill’s aim is to raise fines for people who violate Wisconsin laws concerning the spread of lead-based dust during home remodels. The EPA is actually requiring Wisconsin raise these fines so that Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) can retain authority over the EPA’s lead paint remodeling laws. By retaining this authority, revenues paid to comply with the lead paint laws—in the form of company fees and fines—stay in Wisconsin and support local government jobs. If AB 479 is not signed into law, DHS will lose regulatory authority over the RRP rule. If that happened, revenues would be shipped off to Washington, D.C., where they would support bureaucrats there. And if this happened, certain public servants in Wisconsin could see worse job security, or they might even lose their jobs altogether.

I’ve worked closely for the past 5 years with many people in DHS, and I’ve also worked with the EPA on a number of occasions. DHS servants are quick to answer questions and fix certification issues. If DHS loses administration of the RRP rule, I and thousands of other professionals in the lead remodeling industry will lose valuable contacts, and Wisconsin will lose decades of institutional knowledge of how remodeling can cause lead poisoning.

In 2011 the EPA mandated that states overseeing their own RRP rule raise their minimum fine to $1,000 and the maximum fine to $5,000 or risk losing authority over the rule. It may seem unsubstantial, but this is all AB 479 does—it simply adjusts the rule’s fines so we can keep RRP administration in Wisconsin. Without AB 479 being signed into law, the day is fast approaching when EPA will finally pull the plug on Wisconsin’s RRP oversight and set in motion a chain of events that will most certainly put more children at risk of being poisoned by lead. This would be a tragedy.

The bill’s full text can be read here.

Are You Ready For OSHA’s Dec. 1 Hazard Communication Standard Deadline?

A pictogram for OSHA's updated Safety Data Sheets and labels under its Hazard Communication StandardBoy! How time flies.

Way back in 2006 OSHA said it was going to update its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which is intended to let workers know more about the types of chemicals they work with on the job. After seven years, the time has finally arrived when employers across the country are required to train employees on updated chemical labeling requirements and the new “Safety Data Sheet” format, which is replacing the “Material Safety Data Sheet” format.

OSHA is requiring employers to train employees on these updates by Dec. 1, 2013—which, if you take a second to look closely at your calendar, is less than two months away!

The entire HCS revamp is being gradually rolled out from Dec. 1 to June 1, 2016, and OSHA says this first step is necessary early in the transition process since workers are already beginning to see the new labels and SDSs on the chemicals in their workplace.

So what kind of changes can you anticipate? First, the safety data sheet is now standardized in 16 sections. For example, employees will need to understand that Section 8 of the SDS will always contain information about exposure limits, engineering controls and ways to protect yourself, including personal protective equipment. What’s more, labels on chemicals will be standardized and will include product identifiers, signal words that give an indication as to how dangerous a chemical is, hazard statements that say which parts of the body the chemical will affect, and pictograms that are easily recognizable and indicate how hazardous a chemical is.

If you’re scratching your head wondering what the heck all this means, fret not! Testudo is here to help, and we’re planning a number of training sessions in the coming months to ensure employers in Wisconsin are prepared for the HazCom changes. The first is approaching on Nov. 6 in Elkorn, WI. To schedule a session in your area or for your builders association, call (608) 205-8025 or email info@testudoonline.com.

Lead Renovators Can Use D-Lead Test Kit in Wis.

D-Lead from Esca Tech

D-Lead from Esca Tech

Lead Safe Renovators in Wisconsin now have a second option when a homeowner asks them to test their home for lead-based paint. The state Department of Health Services (DHS) recently approved Esca Tech’s D-Lead test kit for use on household components prior to renovation work.

Following is a how-to video produced by Esca Tech:

DHS has also outlined a long list of guidelines for using D-Lead. Here’s a condensed version:

  • Only Lead Safe Renovators can use the test kit on a home built before 1978. This means that your trained employees cannot use a lead test kit under the Lead Safe Renovator rule.
  • Renovators can only test for lead-based paint after they receive permission from the homeowner.
  • D-Lead can only be used on wood, ferrous metal (alloys that contain iron), drywall or plaster substrates.
  • Each distinct component and surface to be disturbed must be tested separately with new testing materials. For example, a single window system may require the use of 10 or more swabs to test all components of the window, including interior sill, apron, window well, exterior sill, interior sash and muntins, exterior sash and muntins, interior window casing, window jamb, interior stop, exterior stop, and exterior framing.

These are just a few of the requirements for using D-Lead or LeadCheck legally and safely in Wisconsin. For a comprehensive breakdown on how to use D-Lead lead test kits in Wisconsin, see DHS’s website. For information on D-Lead pricing and availability, see the Esca Tech website.

With the approval of D-Lead, Lead Safe Remodelers in Wisconsin now have two lead-based paint test kit options. The first test kit, approved in 2012, was 3M’s LeadCheck. Like D-Lead, you’re required to use a new LeadCheck swab for every single component you’ll be disturbing in a given renovation.

Lakeland Builders Association to Host EPA Lead Safe Training July 16 in Elkhorn

We are happy to announce that we’ve partnered with the Lakeland Builders Association (LBA) to hold a Lead Safe Renovator – Initial course on July 16 at the association’s headquarters in Elkhorn, WI. The class is open to members and non-members. Testudo’s own Samantha Dalsing, who also serves on the LBA’s board of directors, will instruct the course.

If you are not a member of the association, you can sign up right now here. If you are a member, you should call our office at (608) 205-8025 and we will enroll you at a discounted rate!

Fines for violating the RRP rule could be several thousands of dollars, and the state of Wisconsin is increasing enforcement. In addition to the training, attendees can also receive eight credits toward their Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license. If you already hold a Lead Safe Renovator license and need to take your Refresher training please contact Samantha.

Last, if you are building supplier in the Lakeland are and would like to tell your customers about this class, you can print out this flyer from the LBA’s website and display it at your store.

Thanks, and we’re looking forward to seeing you in July!

Occupational Lead Poisoning Still a Problem For Thousands (& Probably Thousands More)

Each year thousands of people encounter high enough concentrations of lead on the job site and become poisoned. Back to their homes these workers bring hypertension, kidney problems and reproductive problems—a lot more than they probably bargained for getting at work.

According to recent research from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), between 1,300 and 1,900 fell victim to occupational lead poisoning  from 2008 to 2011 in that state. These are thousands of people who are trying to do right and make an honest living but are literally being poisoned by their work.

Here’s a snapshot of how many employers were providing blood lead level testing in five industries in which significant lead exposure is possible: 87% of battery manufacturers, 56% of non-ferrous foundries (lead-using), 14% of radiator repair (copper-brass), 8% of painting companies (licensed San Francisco painting contractors), and only 1% of wrecking and demolition companies.

To make matters even worse, the CDPH admits that its research is incomplete and that their work “cannot fully describe the magnitude and distribution of elevated BLLs among California workers.” First, while the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to determine whether workers are exposed to lead, thousands of employers do not. OSHA’s has two main standards that address worker exposure to lead in the workplace, one for construction (29 CFR 1926.62) and another for general industry (29 CFR 1910.1025), and together they basically cover any workplace where lead is present, from construction sites, to battery manufacturing plants to painting job sites. Employers are required to conduct an initial exposure assessment to determine whether workers are exposed to unsafe levels of lead; however, “many employers fail to provide [blood lead level] testing to their lead-exposed workers,” the CDPH says, so there is no baseline of how many workers are even exposed to lead on the job site, which means getting a firm grip on the number of workers that are poisoned could be impossible.

The bottom line is that if you are an employer and lead could be a factor on your job sites, you are required to monitor your workers’ lead exposure. It starts with good air monitoring data, and Testudo can help you with that.

Sherwin-Williams Must Pay $10M Legal Fee in R.I. Lead Paint Case

Paint maker Sherwin-Williams is on the hook for $10 million in legal fees associated with a Rhode Island court battle over its making and marketing of lead-based paint, according to Durability+Design.

The court battle is notorious in the coatings industry. The state of Rhode Island sued a conglomerate of paint makers in 1999 for creating a “public nuisance” and “‘a continuing threat of harm’ to children” in its lead paint products. Rhode Island won the first round and pressed the paint manufacturers, including Sherwin-Williams, for $2.4 billion for lead paint abatement activities. Then in 2008 the state’s Supreme Court reversed the trial judge’s ruling and the judgment of abatement. The most recent action concerns court fees only.

For the full article, see Durability+Design.

Commercial RRP Rule Could Happen in Jan. 2017

This morning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it could enact a commercial RRP rule by Jan. 1, 2017. The rule would also cover public buildings.

The agency also announced that it will hold a public meeting on June 26 in Washington, D.C., to discuss implementing another Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule for commercial and public buildings. The meeting will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at EPA headquarters, Room 1153, EPA East Bldg., 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Further, the agency said it is again accepting public comments on the new rule; people interested in offering their input can do so here until July 12, 2013 (submit under docket ID number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2010-0173). Otherwise, comments can be mailed to: Document Control Office (7407M), Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001.

Who It Could Affect

The EPA said that this rule could affect a wide swath of commercial/public contractors, including those who do industrial building construction, commercial and institutional building construction, as well as building finishing contractors, drywall and insulation contractors, painting and wall covering contractors, finish carpentry contractors, plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors, painting and wall covering contractors, electrical contractors, finish carpentry contractors, drywall and insulation contractors, siding contractors, tile and terrazzo contractors and glass and glazing contractors. However, it also noted that this list is not exhaustive.

The EPA intends to have a proposed rule ready for public consumption by July 1, 2015. It would then work on crafting a final version over the next 18 months, putting the tentative effective date at about Jan. 1, 2017.

Background

Shortly after the RRP rule was published, several lawsuits were filed challenging the rule, asserting that EPA violated the Toxic Substances Control Act (under which the RRP rule was created) by failing to address renovation activities in public and commercial buildings. These lawsuits were brought by environmental and children’s health advocacy groups as well as a homebuilders association. In the end, EPA agreed to commence rulemaking to address renovations in public and commercial buildings, other than child-occupied facilities.

RRP Fines: EPA Goes After Non-Certified Remodelers

On Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it had taken 17 enforcement actions against remodeling firms who violated the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule. At least 12 of those actions were taken against remodelers who neglected obtaining a Lead Safe Renovator certification prior to offering to perform renovations on target housing built before 1978.

Non-Certified Firms

The EPA said it had reached administrative settlements with the non-certified companies. In a press release it said a company’s or individual’s ability to pay a penalty is evaluated and that it adjusts penalties accordingly. 12 of the firms fined for not obtaining the Lead Safe Renovator – Initial certification included:

  • Midwest College Painters, LLC of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
  • Henderson & Associates Services of Largo, Florida.
  • Home Resources Management, LLC of Columbia, Tennessee.
  • Camaj Interiors & Exteriors of Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Cherokee Home Improvements, LLC of Church Creek, Maryland.
  • Window World of Harford located in Belair, Maryland.
  • EA Construction and General Contracting of West Chester, Pennsylvania.
  • Roman Builders of Morton, Pennsylvania.
  • Accolade Construction Group, Inc. of New York, New York.
  • PZ Painting of Springfield, New Jersey.
  • Reeson Construction of Webster, New Hampshire.
  • CM Rogers Handyman of Manchester, New Hampshire.

Other RRP Violations

In addition to not being certified, alleged violations the companies were cited for included:

  • Failure to provide lead hazard information to the property owners
  • Failure to post signs defining work area
  • Failure to  post signs; contain waste; take extra precautions in containing the work area; cover doors with plastic sheeting; and cover ground with plastic
  • Failure to assign a certified renovator to the work site
  • Failure to establish and maintain records.

Micro-Business RRP Fines

Several of the 17 companies involved in the EPA’s latest round of fines qualified as micro businesses. This resulted in either a reduced fine or no fine at all. Fines for most of these kinds of businesses ranged from $0 about $600; one micro-business was fined $3,766.

Larger RRP Fines

Midwest College Painters LLC was fined $116,000 for RRP violations at a residential renovation or repair project located in Lansing, Michigan, in June 2011. Specifically, Midwest College Painters was fined for failing to obtain firm certification and failing to provide the “Renovate Right” pamphlet to property owners. Also the company failed to establish and maintain RRP records certifying 1) that a certified renovator was assigned to the project, 2) that it provided on-the-job training to individuals used on the project, and 3) that it directed these individuals performing the renovation to comply with the work practice standards required by the RRP rule. Last, the company was fined for failing to take steps to contain paint dust from renovation work as required by the RRP Rule. The EPA also fined New Hampshire Plate Glass Corporation $90,750 for failure to assign a certified renovator to the work site, failure to cover ground with plastic sheeting and failure to contain waste from renovation activities.

Also, the EPA fined Groeller Painting Inc. of St. Louis for failing to provide “Renovate Right,” failing to establish and maintain records, and failing to post signs, contain waste, take extra precautions in containing the work area, cover doors with plastic sheeting, and cover ground with plastic at the worksite.

“Using lead-safe work practices is good business and it’s the law,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA is taking action to enforce lead rules to protect people from exposure to lead and to ensure a level playing field for contractors that follow the rules.”