Contractors who do renovations, repairs and painting of buildings constructed before 1978 must follow new lead-safe work practices designed to protect children from lead-based paint poisoning.
The Washington State Department of Commerce is enforcing new rules that require special training and education for contractors while reducing certification costs to $50.
Washington is the 11th state to take over management of the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The new nationwide rule requires construction and maintenance professionals who perform work on older buildings, including houses, child-care facilities and schools, to use lead-safe work practices.
Prior to the adoption of the new rule, the requirement for lead-safe practices applied to designated lead-abatement projects only. But most homes and other structures built before 1978 contain lead paint.
“The nationwide rule was expanded because lead-based paint is the number one environmental hazard facing children under six years of age,” said Dan McConnon, Commerce assistant director for community service and housing. “We’ve chosen to focus on training and education with the notion that by making certification very affordable and offering a grace period for training after a first violation, the result will be more qualified firms and workers in Washington and more lead-safe structures in our communities.”
Washington is the largest state west of the Mississippi River and the second most populated state in the nation to manage the Renovation, Repair and Painting Program.
Through the Department of Commerce program, the state will charge $50 for certification. If the department finds someone in violation of a code section, they will face a minimum $500 fine. First-time violators will be offered a six-month grace period for the firm or individual to take the certification course. After completing the course, the fine may be reduced.
Lead-safe work practices are necessary to avoid contamination from hazardous lead dust and lead chips, which become airborne when conducting renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition. These particles are especially harmful to young children. Debris and dust can spread into the environment and be invested by children when paint is disturbed. Exposure to lead can affect the mental and physical development of children — half of all childhood lead poisoning cases are related to renovation and remodeling, McCannon said.
The rule does not apply to smaller renovation or repair projects that disturb six square feet or less of interior surface or 20 square feet or less of exterior paint, except in the case of window replacement. It also does not apply to homeowners who choose to do their own renovations, although public health officials urge homeowners to exercise caution when doing renovation projects.
To learn more, including certification, licensing, training and lists of certified and licenses renovation firms, go to www.commerce.wa.gov/lead or call the department at 1-360-586-5323. A list of commerce-accredited lead training providers is also available on the website.