Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Safe Work Practices

There is a phrase being bantered about in the remodeling industry these days. It is a phrase that usually weighs most contractors down and one that puts a heavy burden on the remodeling industry. That phrase is ‘lead safe work practices’. Lead safe work practices (LSWP) are the foundation of EPA’s recently proposed Renovation, Repair and Painting rule (RRP). When enacted (a date yet to be determined) the LSWP contained within the RRP will be mandated on all renovation projects in houses built before 1978 where more than 2-square feet of painted surface is disturbed. Let’s say a contractor wants to get a jump on the competition and learn more about safe work practices, where would such a proactive remodeler start?

The following is a discussion that will help serve as a guide through the various sources of LSWP for remodeling. We will also look at other suggested good work practices for remodeling and lastly, expand the discussion to what I call Dust Safe Work Practices© (DWSP).

LEAD SAFE WORK PRACTICES

The first source of LSWP for remodeling was published in 2000 by the EPA. It is a training course titled, Model Training Course: Minimizing Lead-Base Paint Hazards During Renovation, Remodeling, and Painting (MTC). It contained general information about lead history, health hazards of exposure to lead, suggested LSWP and a reference guide titled, Lead Paint Safety: A Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance, and Renovation Work . The field guide can be downloaded at http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead/training/LBPguide.pdf.

The MTC was developed to satisfy lead awareness training requirements for contractors working in HUD funded projects and also lead awareness training requirements mandated by states with their own lead programs. The MTC was used as a model for what is currently being taught as the accepted LSWP in remodeling.

In 2003, EPA and HUD jointly developed Lead Safety for Remodeling, Repair, and Painting (LSRRP). This course will most likely be approved for the required training for ‘renovators’ as stipulated in the RRP and thus will be presented by approved instructors and provide certification for attendees. Currently, there are no requirements to present this course or certification to obtain by doing so. The value of taking this course now is the knowledge and understanding that is gained by doing so. The course books and PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded at for free at http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead/training/rrp/rrp_course.cfm.

The three main points of the LSRRP training are:

Set up and contain the work area.
Minimize the creation of dust.
Clean up the work area.

The LSWP contained within the RRP can be found in section §745.85 (a) Standards for Renovation Activities. Simply stated they are:

Provide occupant protection by keeping them out of the work area.
Contain the work area.
Remove or cover all objects within the work area.
Close and cover all duct openings.
Close windows and doors in the work area.
Cover the floor surface with plastic.
All personnel, tools and debris must be clean before leaving the work area.
Cover the pathway to work area.

The RRP also stipulates regimented project clean-up procedures.

GOOD WORK PRACTICES DURING REMODELING

When surfing around the internet a while back researching indoor air quality in remodeling, I came across this web-page, http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-goodwork.html. It is the list of what EPA calls ‘Good Work Practices During Remodeling’. The list can be condensed as the following:

Correct underlying issues in the home.
Assume paint in pre-1978 housing contains lead.
Do not disturb asbestos.
Avoid exposure to mold or bacteria.
Avoid creating dust.
Provide ventilation for workers and the home.
Protect occupants from odors, pollutants and VOC’s.

DUST SAFE WORK PRACTICES©

It doesn’t matter if the dust on a remodeling project contains asbestos, lead, or mold; is drywall dust, paint fumes or just mud from workers boots. Professional remodelers need to establish policies and procedures to control it. They need to establish Dust Safe Work Practices© (DSWP) for their company. This process starts by training yourself and your personnel on EPA’s lead safe work practices and follow the recommendations found in the list of good work practices during general remodeling. Use these as models to develop standards to control ALL dust on your remodeling projects.

If you compare the lists above, you can see some common points: contain and isolate the work area, minimize creating dust, and keep jobsites clean. Now think about what your customers’ expectations are with these issues. We know that customer satisfaction increases with their perception on how well their project was kept clean. Utilizing DSWP increases the likelihood that your customers will be more satisfied with their remodeling experience.

If you are a professional remodeler looking to get a competitive advantage over your competition and are at all interested in protecting the health or your workers and your customers, develop standards for Dust Safe Work Practices©. Over time your workers will efficiently incorporate these methods into daily operations. Doing so now will put your company in the lead of your competition and prepare your business for a future when LSWP are the law of the land.

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