Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Article in Remodeling Magazine April, 2006

What does Dust Control mean? As a professional remodeler, the better you answer this question the better off you will be. There is increasing pressure being put upon the remodeling industry regarding proper procedures of dust control with pressure from litigation, liability, regulations and customer demands to control dust on residential remodeling projects. Remodelers cannot concern themselves with just the dust itself, they must also be responsible for protecting workers and customers from health risks associated with exposure to hazardous dust. And, as a professional remodeler they must always be mindful of earning and maintaining company profits.

One fact we are all know in remodeling- all projects produce some sort of dust particles. Normal household dust released by removing window treatments or carpeting; construction dust created by cutting and handling of materials such as OSB, non-treated lumber, concrete, drywall, cement-fiber products or insulation; hazardous dust such as fibers from disturbed asbestos, lead dust created by disturbing or removing building components painted with lead-based paint products or spores from mold hidden in walls or floors. There is no avoiding dust in remodeling -- the trick is how your company controls it.


There are regulations imposed by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to work in such a fashion so as not to expose workers beyond what is called the “action level” for lead and the “excursion limit” for asbestos and to never exceed what is called the “permissible exposure-limit” for either hazardous material. Additionally, OSHA mandates that workers do not exceed the “threshold limit value” listed on material safety data sheets for exposure to dust of all construction materials which are potentially harmful. Proper methods of employee personal protection, monitoring and record-keeping ensure workers are safe.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for protecting the public health and has established a goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning by 2010. EPA’s Pre-Renovation Rule is one of several strategies used to reach this goal. It requires that remodelers or specialty trades contractors who disturb more than two-square feet of painted surface in a house or housing-unit built before 1978 provide the owner or occupant the EPA brochure titled “Protecting Your Family from Lead” prior to commencement of work. Further, as of January 10th, 2006 EPA released “Lead; Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program; Proposed Rule” which proposes regulations upon renovators or specialty trade contractors who work in pre-1978 housing and mandates company certification and worker training on lead safe work practices. This proposed regulation targets proper containment and clean-up procedures as another means of eliminating lead poisoning and puts this responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the remodeling industry.


There exists a direct relationship between customer satisfaction and how well you keep your project neat, clean and orderly. Keeping a project clean is not just good for worker health, but also their productivity and ultimately your customer’s satisfaction. A well completed renovation, with a satisfied customer leads to solid profits and a strong potential referral customer. Linking company policies and procedures to dust control will not only earn your company profits, but protect them should anything go tragically wrong. Having an established system for delivery of your remodeling services focused on controlling dust should be weaved through your entire company from sales, estimating, and production to project close-out.


First, become personally committed to Dust Control in your company. A dedicated and comprehensive approach to controlling dust is the best way to ensure success in the remodeling industry of tomorrow. This dedication will need to manifest itself in the form of policies, procedures and standards that can be found in your company’s employee manual, health and safety program, training materials, project estimates and by the way in which your workers go about their work.

Second, become knowledgeable of occupational safety requirements to which your company must comply. OSHA is a federal level enforcement agency and has jurisdiction only in states that do not have approved state level occupational health and safety programs. Chances are that the state(s) your company operates within has an approved program and thus you are required to comply with those regulations, not necessarily those of OSHA. No matter the enforcement jurisdiction, all remodeling businesses need to have their own written health and safety program.

Third, ensure your employees, sub-contractors and sub-contractor’s employees have received adequate and proper training. This training must include that which is necessary for occupational safety and information of the hazards caused by exposure to the various types of remodeling dust, best practices to minimize exposure to dust, setting up and maintaining dust containment systems and clean-up procedures. Inclusion of sales staff in such training will help them build the value of the services your company offers and help explain the reason behind them.

Lastly, get ahead of the curve. Now is the time to differentiate your company from the competition with a comprehensive dust control program. Be sure to keep a watchful eye on EPA’s proposed lead regulations for remodeling. Once enacted, all remodeling firms will be mandated to have just that. Protect your workers, customers and profits by getting a jump-start on controlling dust.


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