Wednesday, January 13, 2016

OSHA Grants Temporary Enforcement Extension on Confined Spaces Ruling

In September 2015, we wrote a blog post which alerted you to OSHA's new confined space regulations. OSHA has now further extended this temporary enforcement policy through March 8, 2016 for employers who work in residential construction.

Essentially, what this means is, up to and including March 8, 2016, OSHA will not issue confined spaces citations to an "employer engaged in residential construction work if the employer is making good faith efforts to comply with the standard."

OSHA further defined "good faith" factors below:

  • If the employer has not trained its employees as required under the new standard, whether the employer has scheduled such training, 
  • If the employer does not have the equipment required for compliance with the new standard, including personal protective equipment, whether the employer has ordered or otherwise arranged to obtain such equipment required for compliance and is taking alternative measures to protect employees from confined space hazards, and 
  • Whether the employer has engaged in any additional efforts to educate workers about confined space hazards and protect workers from those hazards. 
For more information on this update, you can read OSHA's announcement.

Make sure you are in compliance with the new OSHA standards!
Avoid fines and protect your employees with the OSHA Confined Space Awareness training. Worksites will also need at least one person who has taken the Competent Person training to inspect the workspace. Confined Space Permit Entry training may also be required if the confined space contains a serious health or safety hazard.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Companies Pay $7 Billion in EPA Enforcement Actions

In 2015, the EPA - through the record-setting hazardous waste, Clean Air Act, and Superfund settlements - have acquired more than $7 billion through enforcement actions. These plans have made it mandatory for companies to invest in equipment to help contain any pollution and make it easier to clean up any contaminated areas.

These cases culminated in a major reduction in 430 million pounds of air pollutants and accumulated $404 million from federal administrative, civil judicial penalties, and other criminal fines. The EPA have also received around $2 billion in commitments to clear up Superfund sites and $39 million invested into environmental projects to help neighborhoods hurt by pollution.

A big example of this are the three subsidiaries of Duke Energy Corporation, the largest energy utility in the US, agreeing to pay a $68 million criminal fine and invest $34 million on environmental projects & land conservation.

The EPA can fine companies up to $37,500 per day for violations of lead regulations. Landlords, Renovators, Painters, Installers, Contractors: avoid fines and get EPA Lead Certified before performing any work on pre-1978 homes. Record keeping issues are one of the most common violations that often results in large fines. Make sure you have your project paperwork in order by utilizing an RRP Project Binder.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New York Mold Legislation Updates and Licensing Information

Department of Labor releases new information on mold remediation requirements

NEW YORK -- After the New York State Department of Labor’s new mold legislation was passed earlier this year, the Department has released more details about the licenses required for working with or near mold. The requirements go into effect January 1, 2016. The new law is designed to ensure safe conditions for workers in buildings that contain mold and to protect vulnerable populations from the health threats that mold poses. The law emphasizes designing a comprehensive work plan and attending thorough training in order to ensure that all work is done safely and effectively.

New mold remediation laws ensure worker safety
Workers across the state will receive new training.
In order to work safely around mold, workers will need to become licensed as mold assessors, mold abatement workers, or mold remediation contractors. 
  • Mold assessors will analyze the mold in a building and write remediation plans; they will learn about mold sampling and best practices in their state-mandated Mold Assessor training course
  • Mold contractors own or supervise work for a company that does mold remediation work, and approve work plans; their state-mandated Mold Contractor training course covers workplace safety for everything from preparation to cleanup. 
  • Mold abatement workers include anyone who does mold remediation work in any capacity, including those employed by a licensed Mold contractor; they learn practical methods for safely dealing with mold in the state-mandated Mold Abatement Worker training course.

Workers uncertain of which course they should take can refer to the NY Department of Labor (DOL) course guidelines, summarized in a chart on their website. The chart is designed to direct contractors and workers to the correct mold certification training course

After attending the course, registration is required with the DOL to become licensed; the following applications outline the requirements for each discipline:

Companies that lack properly certified workers risk heavy fines and widely publicized penalties; they also risk the safety of their customers and crew. The years since Hurricane Sandy have served to underscore the dangers of mold, and getting trained means being fully prepared for work in any home.

Protect your clients from health threats, and your company from legal issues: find a mold certification course that fits your needs!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Philanthropy & The Building Industry: Builders Give Back

The building industry has been steadily contributing millions in cash, materials, supplies, and endless hours to various local, national, and international charities. Philanthropic services have greatly been contributing to business for U.S. home builders.

Throughout the nation, a variety of home builder's associations have been reporting very active participation in their local communities. For example, a association in southern Nevada reports that 99% of home builders participate in charity work. This kind of charity work seemed to be scarce post-recession but have now recently bounced back near exceeding pre-recession levels since charitable work has now become a major part of company culture.

Builders have also been keeping an eye on where their donations should go - choosing carefully between what charities to give to as well as where their money is rightfully going. Aligning themselves with a well-established nonprofit seems to be the way to go as they seem to coincide with company views. Popular charities include the American Cancer Society, Covenant House, & the Red Cross, as well as local initiatives like Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Team-driven charitable activities have also helped build company morale - allowing employees to have fun while helping a great cause - with endless positive benefits. Employees are able to provide to charities that are close to them, while receiving a paid day off to fully embrace their free time with their coworkers. At Houston's David Weekley Homes, team members get to specifically chose their nonprofit charities - 90% of employees participate in the program.

Building companies also benefit by growing name recognition and the ability to boost potential customers and retain current customers. Charity service has also greatly attributed to the rise of attracting young people to a company, as well as boosting clout in social media for philanthropic efforts. Many home buyers are attracted to a builder that is a charitable builder, as more customers are aware of the social responsibility of the brands they use. A Neilsen survey found that 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. Giving back works!

As green building & philanthropy help drive the economy, demand for sustainable design and construction experts continues to grow! Get LEED accredited now or browse training courses on to build your skills & help build a better future!

Friday, October 30, 2015

EPA Settlements Help Protect Public Against Health Hazards from Lead Exposure

75 actions announced related to the EPA's Lead RRP Rule

Originally released by the US Environmental Protection Agency on October 22, 2015. EPA Contact: Julia p. Valentine, 202-564-2663.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced 75 enforcement actions from the past year that require renovation contractors and training providers to protect people from harmful exposure to lead dust and debris, as required by EPA’s Lead-based Paint Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) regulations.

Seventy-five settlements were filed from October 2014 through September 2015 for renovations performed on pre-1978 homes and child-care facilities, and each requires that the alleged violator certify its compliance with RRP regulations to EPA and, in most cases, pay civil penalties to resolve the alleged violations. The violations cited in the settlements reflect EPA’s goal to reduce illegal and unsafe renovations, and the lead hazards risks that result from them.

“Ensuring that lead-based paint is properly removed and handled helps protect children’s health when repairs or renovations are performed in older housing, particularly where kids live” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These cases show that EPA is serious about making sure companies that break the law are held accountable when they undercut responsible businesses and put public health at risk.”

In three of the settlements, entities agreed to fund voluntary lead abatement projects, which require removal of lead-based paint and post-construction testing to ensure that no hazardous conditions remain. Each of the projects is expected to cost at least $20,000 to complete.

Approximately two-thirds of the cases involved failure to obtain EPA certification prior to conducting renovations. The cases reflect an increased focus on ensuring that firms and renovators comply with lead-safe work practices intended to protect children and others from exposure to lead dust. More than half of the cases cited violations of work practice standards and other requirements that directly affect how work is performed.

Lead dust and debris from improper renovation activities on properties built prior to 1978 is a major source of lead exposure that can cause lead poisoning. Although using lead-based paint in dwellings was prohibited after 1978, it is still present in more than 30 million homes across the nation, in all types of communities. The RRP Rule provides important protections for children and others vulnerable to lead exposure. Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia. In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.

The RRP Rule, which is part of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, is intended to ensure that owners and occupants of pre-1978 “target housing” and “child-occupied facilities” receive information on lead-based paint hazards before renovations begin, that individuals performing such renovations are properly trained and certified, and that renovators and workers follow specific lead-safe work practices during renovations to reduce the potential for exposure to lead.

The penalties in the settlements address the cited violations. Enforcement penalties also help deter other violations, and level the playing field for companies that follow the law. These fines help eliminate the financial advantage a violator may get by underbidding competitors that are compliant.

Contractors that are certified under EPA’s RRP regulations are encouraged to display EPA’s “Lead-Safe” logo on worker’s uniforms, signs, websites, and other material, as appropriate. Consumers can protect themselves by looking for the logo before hiring a home contractor, and by being generally aware of whether a renovator is following lead-safe work practices when working on their property. Those practices, such as what a renovator must do to minimize lead dust dispersion, are outlined in EPA’s Renovate Right lead hazard information pamphlet, available here.

Renovators are required to give the pamphlet to property owners and occupants within 60 days before starting any renovation.

In the following settlements, the companies paid civil penalties in excess of $25,000, respectively:
  • Garden Homes Management, Corp. (CT) paid a penalty of $54,644, and will perform a window replacement supplemental environmental project valued at $20,000 for violating certification, firm responsibility, information distribution, and recordkeeping requirements; and violating Lead-based Paint Disclosure Rule information distribution and disclosure requirements.
  • Blue Mountain Air, Inc. (CA) paid $51,030 as a penalty for violating firm certification, recordkeeping, and firm responsibility requirements.
  • Line Construction Company (KS) paid a fine of $33,642 to settle violations of firm certification, recordkeeping, and information distribution requirements.
  • The Whalley Glass Company (CT) paid a $31,286 penalty for violating firm certification, firm responsibility, information distribution, and recordkeeping requirements.
  • William DeMarse, d/b/a Bill DeMarse Professional Painting (MI) paid a fine of $28,545 for non-compliance with firm certification, work practice, and firm responsibility requirements.
  • Cardo Windows, Inc. (NJ) settled, paying a fine of $27,000 for failing to comply with information distribution and recordkeeping requirements.

In each of the following cases, EPA recovered more than $20,000 in a combination of penalties and a Supplemental Environmental Project:
  • RDF Inc. d/b/a Paul Davis Restoration (NE) will perform a supplemental environmental project valued at $27,304, in addition to paying a penalty of $3,033, for failure to comply with firm responsibility, recordkeeping, information distribution, and work practice requirements.
  • Bordner Installation Group, Inc. (MO) will undertake a supplemental environmental project valued at $20,000 and pay a penalty of $2,198 for violating recordkeeping and information distribution rules.

In the following settlements, companies paid civil penalties in excess of $10,000, respectively:
  • Scherrer Engineering and Construction, Inc. (WV) paid $22,500 as a penalty for violating requirements for firm certification, information distribution, firm responsibility, and work practice standards.
  • Colossal Contractors, Inc. (MD) paid a $21,196 penalty for failing to comply with information distribution, recordkeeping and work practice requirements.
  • JSH Home Improvements, LLC (PA) paid $19,096 as a penalty for non-compliance with firm certification, firm responsibility, information distribution, recordkeeping, and work practice requirements.
  • Blue Door Painters, Inc. (VA) paid a penalty of $18,000 for failing to comply with standards for work practices, firm responsibility, information distribution, and recordkeeping.
  • Envirotech, Inc. (MO) paid a penalty of $14,024 for failing to comply with information distribution, work practice, and firm responsibility requirements.
  • Blue Springs Siding and Windows, LLC (MO) paid $13,566 for non-compliance with firm certification and recordkeeping requirements.
  • AAPCP LC (VA) settled, paying a fine of $12,800 to settle information distribution violations.
  • Pella Windows & Doors (MO) settled with a fine of $12,558 for violating firm certification and recordkeeping requirements.
  • Damage Control & Restoration, Inc. (KS) $12,194 for non-compliance with information distribution and recordkeeping obligations.
  • Whitney Management & Maintenance Co. (CT) paid a penalty of $10,285 for failing to comply with firm certification, information distribution, firm responsibility and recordkeeping requirements.

The EPA can fine companies up to $37,500 per day for violations of lead regulations. Landlords, Renovators, Painters, Installers, Contractors: avoid fines and get EPA Lead Certified before performing any work on pre-1978 homes. Recordkeeping issues is one of the most common violations that often results in large fines. Make sure you have your project paperwork in order by utilizing an RRP Project Binder.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Green Homes Fetch Higher Prices

Buyers pay more for green design

Sustainable design is in growing demand.
A D.C.-based study affirms the value of green design.
As environmental awareness grows and concerns about climate change are increasingly common, consumer are becoming more and more interested in their lifestyles’ global effects. This interest is manifesting in the growth of the green design industry, which allows consumers to ensure that their homes and workplaces use resources efficiently and avoid destruction of the natural world whenever possible. A recent study by the United States Green Building Council found that green construction is now a multi-billion dollar industry, sustaining thousands of families in the United States alone. This week, a new report by the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) confirmed this growth when it revealed that customers are willing to pay more for homes that are environmentally friendly.

The study analyzed real estate in Washington, D.C. and found that on average, homes marketed with environmentally friendly features sell for 3.46% more than homes that lack green features. Customers looking for smart energy use or sustainable materials value them so much that they’re willing to pay more, making the industry not only useful but valuable as well. The executive director of the IMT, Cliff Majersik, pointed out that this study confirms the profitability of green design. In a press release Majersik said that, ““Home sellers, realtors, and appraisers who are not factoring in energy efficiency when selling a home are leaving money on the table,” and would do well to emphasize green design in their work.

A commodity that’s already proven popular among students, green buildings - especially those that are LEED certified - benefit everyone involved in the housing market. Realtors find them easier to market, and buyers appreciate a home that is environmentally friendly. Energy-efficient features also save buyers money, meaning they’re willing to spend more to install them; contractors and construction workers who are certified to design and install these features then benefit from a widespread demand for their services.

As it highlights the popularity of environmentally friendly homes, the report also calls for action to keep improving the industry and ensure that its potential is realized. The report’s authors point out that  “to achieve more accurate HPH transactions, the market needs real estate professionals with knowledge of green building principles and practices. Otherwise, homeowners may miss out on significant value green features can add to their transactions.” Like realtors, contractors who ignore the benefits of green construction are missing out on a thriving market.

As green building drives the economy, demand for sustainable design and construction experts continues to grow. Get LEED accredited now or browse training courses on to build your skills!

Friday, October 23, 2015

EPA Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Learn how to protect your home and family from lead.

Originally released by the US Environmental Protection Agency on October 22, 2015. EPA Contact: Roy Seneca, 215-814-5567.

PHILADELPHIA (October 23, 2015) -- Lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat in the U.S. for children ages 6 and younger.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared Oct. 25-31 Lead Poisoning Prevention Week to make families more aware of the hazards of lead and lead-based paint in the home and in childcare facilities.  This year’s theme, “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future,” will focus on ways to reduce a child's exposure to lead and prevent its serious health effects.

You may have lead around your home without knowing it because you can’t see, taste, or smell lead.  Because it does not break down naturally, lead can remain a problem until it is removed.  Before we knew how harmful it could be, lead was used in paint, gasoline, water pipes, and many other products.  Now that we know the dangers of lead, house paint is almost lead-free, leaded gasoline has been phased out, and household plumbing is no longer made with lead materials. 

EPA has taken regulatory steps aimed at preventing lead poisoning.  Under the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP), contractors, landlords, window replacement firms and other trades performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, schools and other child-occupied facilities built before 1978 must be certified and must follow Lead Safe work practices, and provide the EPA informational booklet “Protecting Your Home from the Hazards of Lead-based Paint” prior to the start of work practices to prevent lead contamination. 

The RRP rule does not apply to individuals doing work on their own home.  However, EPA recommends that Lead-Safe work-practices be followed for these projects, as well.

Currently, owners of residential rental properties built before 1978 must disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect.  Leases must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint.  

Sellers of properties built before 1978 must disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before selling a house.  Sales contracts must include a disclosure form about lead-based paint.  Buyers have up to 10 days to check for lead hazards.                                                                         
How does lead affect a child’s health?  The long-term effects of lead in a child can be severe. They include learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing, and even brain damage.  If caught early, these effects can be limited by reducing exposure to lead or by medical treatment.  Pregnant women should avoid exposure to lead because lead can pass through a woman’s body into the unborn baby. 

The good news is there are simple things you can do to help protect your families.

1.  Get your child tested.  Even children who appear healthy may have high levels of lead You can’t tell if a child has lead poisoning unless you have him or her tested.  A blood test takes only 10 minutes, and results should be ready within a week.  Blood tests are usually recommended for children at ages one and two.  To find out where to have your child tested, call your doctor or local health clinic.  They can explain what the test results mean, and if more testing will be needed.

2.  Keep it clean.  Ordinary dust and dirt may contain lead.  Children can swallow lead or breathe lead contaminated dust if they play in dust or dirt and then put their fingers or toys in their mouths, or if they eat without washing their hands first.  Keep the areas where your children play as dust-free and clean as possible.  Wash pacifiers and bottles after they fall on the floor.  Keep extras handy.  Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly.  Use a mop, sponge, or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead.  Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.  Wash toys and stuffed animals regularly.  Make sure your children wash their hands before meals, nap time, and bedtime.
Get certified for safe lead renovation.
Older houses are especially likely to contain risky lead paint.

3.  Reduce the risk from lead paint.  Most homes built before 1978 contain leaded paint. This paint could be on window frames, walls, the outside of your house, or other surfaces.  Tiny pieces of peeling or chipping paint are dangerous if eaten.  Lead paint in good condition is not usually a problem except in places where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust. (For example, when you open a window, the painted surfaces rub against each other.)  Make sure your child does not chew on anything covered with lead paint, such as painted window sills, cribs, or playpens.  Don’t burn painted wood, it may contain lead.

4. Don’t remove lead paint yourself.  Lead dust from repairs or renovations of older buildings can remain in the building long after the work is completed. Hire a person with special training for correcting lead paint problems to remove lead paint from your home, someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. 

5.  Eat right.  A child who gets enough iron and calcium will absorb less lead.  Foods rich in iron include eggs, lean red meat, and beans.  Dairy products are high in calcium.  Don’t store food or liquid in lead crystal glassware or imported or old pottery.  If you reuse plastic bags to store or carry food, keep the printing on the outside of the bag.

Lead is dangerous to children and families! Landlords, Renovators, Painters, Installers, Contractors: Do your part to prevent child lead poisoning - get EPA Lead Certified before performing any work on pre-1978 homes.