In April of 2010, a new government policy regarding renovation, repair, or painting contractors took effect. Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Lead-Safe Certification Program seeks to minimize the harm caused by workers who deal with lead-based paint. According to the program’s regulations, all contractors who work around lead paint in homes, schools, or child-care centers built before 1978 (the year lead paint was banned in the U.S.) must be certified and follow “lead-safe” practices.
What makes certification and proper practices so important is the physiological damage lead dust or paint flakes can do. Children exposed to lead for extended periods of time can develop learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and/or diminished intelligence. Symptoms of lead poisoning rarely appear until harm has already occurred. Kids’ bodies absorb lead more easily than adults’ systems, and it affects them more profoundly. An estimated one million children are currently affected by lead-paint poisoning. Adults who inhale lead dust may suffer reproductive problems, nerve damage, weakened memory or concentration, muscle and joint pain, or hypertension.
To begin the lead-safe certification process, a contractor submits an application and a fee. The company’s workers then undergo eight hours of training, including two hours of hands-on instruction, from a trainer approved by the EPA. Once certified, workers must contain project areas, minimize the amount of lead dust produced, and clean sites thoroughly when their work is done. During a job, they are required to assess potential dangers, test for lead paint, and prepare work areas properly. A certified firm is obligated to provide its clients with an EPA pamphlet on lead hazards, a copy of its certification, and a specific explanation of the lead-safe practices it will use. Contractors are expected to have three references from jobs that involved pre-1978 buildings.
Just as certification costs money, lead-safe practices are somewhat more expensive for a firm to employ than unsafe methods, which makes some certified contractors pricier than their uncertified rivals. Nonetheless, homeowners and school administrators should resist the temptation to hire an uncertified firm. Such companies risk fines, or even jail time, by operating outside the EPA’s regulations, and the harm they can do to both customers and their own workers is considerable. If you have questions about the Lead-Safe Certification Program, please call the designated government hotline, 1-800-424-LEAD.
Shearer Painting is EPA lead-safe certified, i.e., certified under lead-safe work practices, fall protection in compliance with OSHA, & certification to conduct lead-based paint repair, renovation, and painting activities; with compliance since 2005. Shearer handles both interior and exterior painting projects with a deep dedication to environmentally sensitive practices.