This Is Really For Us, Contractors: The RRP Rule.

Lead paint chips yummy!

Much has been discussed by fellow contractors about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renovation, Repair, and Painting for Lead Safety Final Rule (40CFR 745) that requires that renovations conducted for compensation, must be conducted by Certified Firms (your construction company) by Certified Renovators (you).  If a house was built before 1978, you have to apply to the EPA and pay a fee in order to become certified.  The classes cost about $160 and last around 9 hours *whew*.

So, I sent the cheese [money] in advance and scheduled my class on a Saturday — convenient for me.  I arrived at the school a little late on a cold December morning, signed in, took a photo, and quickly grabbed a seat in the front of the room.  Photo: liveinlakeforest.com

The instructor gave me a thick, white notebook with the course in it.  I just followed along with the projector screen and the course outline he used.  The class was packed with contractors; all shapes and sizes.  The atmosphere was upbeat; a cheerful bunch of guys learning some new stuff.

I won’t get into the whole theatrics of what the Modules contained but a few things stuck out in my mind:  a) This is gonna be a long 9 hours, and b) This Rule was written for us to keep us safe out in the field.  Think about it.  We are in and out of the customers’ homes every day.  I imagine we are the most at risk for spreading lead dust to our families at home.  The first thing my little boy wants to do is put on my work hat and glasses when I walk through the door!

The general consensus from many contractors though, is that the added time factor and costs to their clients and customers will negatively effect their businesses.  Because of this, they feel a customer will rather go with Joe the handyman down the block, or their cousin’s brother’s friend (that’ll HACK the-be-el-zebob out of their kitchen remodel)  just to save a few dollars!  This type of thinking is severely flawed.  The key to gaining these wayward customers lies in the presentation of why they should carefully choose a RRP Certified guy and convincing them that the decision is important .

“I can start TODAY!..”handyman-ax

The contractor must be well versed in the Rule for compliance and properly convey this message to the homeowner in a way that they understand.  I would practice the presentation at home several times until I was happy with a presentation that flows smoothly and covers all the important facts.  You may have to even resort to the scare tactic of lead poisoning (just kidding!).  There are plenty of stories out there concerning this.  Their kid’s future learning abilities and motor skills are at risk!  You may also lose some customers off the tail-end — but wouldn’t you rather represent the facts of the Rule and have all necessary chit together?  Licensing, RRP Certifications, other related insurance, paperwork, and credentials — speak of professionalism and sincerity to undertake a project with their safety in mind and should be at the forefront of their concerns.  Photo: 123rf.com

Here’s some quick pointers of what was covered that stuck out to me:

  • A certified Renovator can train others on specific tasks and a Firm must keep records of the trainee’s skills for 3 years.
  • Most companies get fined for giving out the RRP Lead Safety brochure but not getting it signed by the homeowner and keeping the record.
  • When removing a window, you must drape plastic 6 feet from the window inside and protect 20 feet of space outside the property.  An additional 2 feet of space needs to be cleaned outside of that.
  • Interior doorways must have 2 layers of plastic sheeting — 1 for entry and the other for added containment.  Each time you leave the area you must take off all RRP clothing, and hepa-vac the stuff in the garbage.

I will admit the processes for working on pre-1978 homes are a bit challenging — Putting on full body painter’s suit and respirators, wearing booties, staging the work areas, then removing the extra clothing each time you leave the containment areas.  It is almost reminiscent of an E.T. style quarantine!  You do remember E.T. The Extraterrestrial Movie…?

ET The Terrestrial Movie

Here are the pluses and why I think this RRP Rule is great news for contractors:

1.  You protect yourself and the little kids at home. The main people at risk are children and the contractors who work in pre-1978 homes that they live in everyday.  Also your own kids at home are at risk.  Why?  Because you end up “taking home your job”, which is to say clothes, your skin, and hair all contain small dust particles.  And what contractor hasn’t come home from a rough day and hugged their kids and wife?  The picture comes a bit clearer.  For example, if you are a door and window contractor, you are disturbing lead painted surfaces and creating dust on a daily basis.  You could easily transfer this dust to your wife and kids when you get home (they absorb 50% of the lead they are exposed to, and with the same amount of exposure, adults absorb 10%), not to mention exposing your clients to these hazards!  Photo: uashome.alaska.edu

2. Being a Certified Renovator or Firm adds to your list of pro documentation and your commitment to customer safety and added satisfaction. Along with having the necessary licensing and being insured, the object is to create a package of professionalism.  In your company sales packet you include a copy of your license, copy of your insurance, and a copy of your RRP Certs.  You present this package to your customers and clients, along with other salesmanship documentation, and HEY then the homeowner is more likely to hire you because you are on the ball! leaking pro juice — as opposed to the other guy who got laid off from the steel plant and decided to pick up a toolbelt and hack his way thru..

3.  The RRP staging and set-up costs amount to more dollars for you. To properly set-up a job for RRP compliance, there is the time factor involved.  These costs are easily recouped from the homeowner.  Safe home and kids? This should be an easy decision for them as long as you prepare to explain why.  In contracts, you may stipulate an item, “RRP compliance fee”, or something along those lines.  Depending on what kind of project you are undertaking, you gotta take into account how long it will take you guys to prepare a jobsite — and plan for it accordingly.

F.Y.I. The instructor advised us at class that the set-up fee contractors have been charging ranges from $500 to $1000 per opening.  Door and window openings.

4.  Take the time to network with other contractors in the class. This is one thing I encourage you to do.  I was late and didn’t take my biz cards with me.  Don’t make the mistake like I did.  You will have time to talk to others during break time.  Half the class will take a 1 hour break, while the other half will perform practice RRP procedures.  I met a lot of cool contractors.  Who knows?  You just might find the next lead for work in the classroom.

So, wadda we git?  You can look at the New Rule in a positive light and change a few habits to save your own kids and your customer’s kids from the harmful effects of lead paint — and the dangerous dust you create when working on pre-1978 houses.  Or, you can sit around and complain about the extra work you have to do now — because of some stupid law — with lead dust flakes in yer hair..

Dirty Face guyI know.. I know.. YOU’ve been doing construction the SAME WAY for years! you’ll say..

But, on the other hand, change a habit and protect your clients.  Change is good.  Photo: corbisimages.com

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