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Feds to Query Contractors on Lead Plan

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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Do public and commercial construction projects need new federal lead-safe mandates to protect occupants and workers?

That's what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to ask the nation's contractors.

Burned once for pushing a regulation that critics called unnecessary, the EPA has drafted a Public and Commercial Building Contractor Survey Questionnaire on its plan to expand the unpopular residential Renovation, Repair and Painting Program to commercial and public renovation work.

Lead paint work
Photos: AGC

Commercial construction groups want the EPA to document a need for additional requirements on commercial and public construction before imposing a rule.

The residential rule mandates lead-safe practices and certification for contractors working in pre-1978 homes, schools and in-home day-care centers.

Expansion Effort

The EPA contends that renovation work in some commercial and public buildings exposes occupants and the public to the same lead-based paint hazards found in residential work.

The EPA has been trying to expand the RRP rule to commercial and public contracting since it took effect in April 2010. That effort was delayed in September 2012 as a result of a settlement agreement with environmental and health organizations.

The EPA has until July 1, 2015, to decide whether to propose new requirements. If it proceeds, the agency has until Dec. 31, 2016, to publish a final rule.

Contractor Opposition

The Associated General Contractors of America and 21 partners formed the “Commercial Properties Coalition” to oppose expansion of the rule unless EPA can document the need for it.

AGC testified last year at a hearing on the proposal that current Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules adequately control lead exposures in public and commercial buildings with lead-based paint.

"AGC recognizes that EPA’s LRRP is focused on protecting the surrounding public from lead-paint hazards and the agency is actively looking at how far dust will travel during construction,"  the contractor group said in a statement.

Construction Construction

The EPA has until July 1, 2015, to decide whether to propose new requirements. If it proceeds, the agency has until Dec. 31, 2016, to publish a final rule.

"However, if OSHA regulations are deemed sufficient to protect the employees who are actually performing the work, AGC believes that EPA has a tough case to prove that any persons NOT associated with the project would be (or could be) detrimentally exposed to lead dust."

Seeking Comment

The EPA's new draft survey (officially, an Information Collection Request) is part of that data collection effort. The agency is seeking comments on the survey's questions and assumptions until Feb. 4. The agency is specifically looking for information on:

  • Cost assumptions;
  • Assumptions about the scope of activities that disturb lead-based paint and the number of people engaged in that work; and
  • Whether the survey should include more or other questions.

AGC is also asking its members for feedback on the draft.

The draft is a script for telephone interviews and would serve as a template for a web questionnaire. The respondents to the telephone interviews will be selected at random, and the surveys will be conducted by Abt SRBI, a New York City-based research firm.

Comments may be emailed to AGC's Leah Pilconis by Jan. 31 or directly to EPA using this link.


Tagged categories: Associated General Contractors (AGC); Commercial Construction; Commercial contractors; Government contracts; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); OSHA

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