The Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) regulations for lead paint are meant to protect inhabitants of homes where contractors are working. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, too, has lead-paint rules, but its goal is to protect workers and employees. Sometimes the two agencies’ rules seem to be at cross-purposes:
- EPA: recommends washing work clothes separately from regular household laundry to stop lead from getting on other clothes
- OSHA: requires specific disposable clothing or employer laundering
- EPA: recommends that if you can’t clean yourself at the site, get a piece of plastic to protect the floor and seat of your car from lead contamination
- OSHA: requires a separate area for cleaning oneself before leaving the site
In some cases, such as personal protective equipment, the EPA only recommends workers use it. But since worker protection is OSHA’s responsibility, it’s up to OSHA to require respiratory protection (or not), for example.
The same goes for disposable clothing, which can protect the health of workers and their families. The EPA doesn’t require it and “allows renovators to use other methods to ensure that dust and debris do not leave the work area.”
What to Do?
So how does a professional remodeler do the right thing?
According to an OSHA official, the agency is “aware of the concerns of some of EPA’s training providers and has been in contact with EPA,” which, OSHA says, “is revising the training program.” Since the EPA program is in revision, OSHA says it “wouldn’t be appropriate to answer specific questions about [it].”
The EPA does not believe there is a conflict between the two agencies’ programs, and its spokesperson says, “As with any regulatory program, when a more stringent standard exists, it must be followed …. And it is incumbent on the business to understand, implement, and provide training to employees regarding the OSHA requirement.”
The bottom line: Be as knowledgeable as you can be about both sets of regulations, says Shawn McCadden, a remodeling consultant and founder of RRpedia.com, an interactive resource for RRP information. (And, contrary to popular belief, you cannot be cited for the same infractions by both agencies, since each has a different jurisdiction.)
McCadden suggests the following to protect your business:
• Have a proactive mindset
• Educate before you renovate
• Gather a preponderance of evidence with photos and documentation
• Make sure your clients sign off on everything
—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.