There's no avoiding dust in a remodeling project, and with the pressure of possible litigation and liability claims, regulations, and customer demands, you need a way to control it. Remodelers can't be concerned with just dust, though; they're also responsible for protecting workers and customers from health risks associated with hazardous dust exposure. And, they must always be mindful of the bottom line.

Protect Workers OSHA regulations require that remodelers not expose workers beyond what is called the “action level” for lead, the “excursion limit” for asbestos, and to never exceed what is called the “permissible exposure-limit” for either of the hazardous materials. Additionally, OSHA mandates that workers do not exceed the “threshold limit value” listed on material safety data sheets for exposure to dust of all potentially harmful construction materials. Proper methods of employee personal protection, monitoring, and record-keeping ensure worker safety.

Protect Customers The EPA ( has established a goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning by 2010. The agency's Pre-Renovation Rule and its recently proposed “Lead; Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program,” are two of several strategies being used to reach this goal. The regulations apply to remodelers or specialty trade contractors working on housing constructed before 1978. (See “EPA-Proposed New Lead Paint Work Rule,” News+Notes, page 25, REMODELING, March 2006 for more information.) These regulations put the responsibility for lead-safe work practices and lead containment squarely on the shoulders of the remodeling industry.

Protect Profits There is a direct relationship between customer satisfaction —and, subsequently, referrals — and how neat and clean the project was. Linking company policies and procedures to dust control will not only earn your company profits, it will also protect them should something go tragically wrong. An established system focused on controlling dust should weave through your company from sales, estimating, and production to project closeout.

What Can You Do?

  • Become personally committed to dust control in your company. This dedication should manifest itself in policies, procedures, and standards described in your company's employee manual, health and safety program, training materials, and project estimates, and in the way your employees go about their work.
  • Know the occupational safety requirements with which you must comply. Chances are that the state (or states) your company operates in has an approved program. You're required to comply with those regulations, not necessarily just those of OSHA, a federal agency. No matter the enforcement jurisdiction, all remodeling businesses must have a written health and safety program.
  • Ensure that employees, subcontractors, and subcontractors' employees receive proper training. This includes: knowing the hazards caused by exposure to the various types of remodeling dust, applying best practices to minimize exposure to dust, and setting up and maintaining dust containment systems and cleanup procedures. Include sales staff in this training.
  • Differentiate your company with a comprehensive dust-control program. Keep a watchful eye on the EPA's proposed lead regulations. Once enacted, all remodeling companies will have to comply. Protect your workers, your customers, and your profits by getting a jump-start on dust control.
  • —Brindley Byrd, CAPS, CGR, is a member of the NAHB Remodelors Council Board of Trustees and the NAHB Lead Work Group, is a certified lead risk assessor, and offers health and safety consulting services to the remodeling industry.