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.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Report Identifies Greenest Cities in America

Highlights growth of green energy and construction jobs

LEED work helps put cities on top.
A new report reveals just how central green infrastructure is in the U.S.
A new report has identified the greenest cities in America, and while it’s no surprise that New York City – with its widely used public transportation – is #1, the rest of the list reveals an exciting trend. The report, which used metrics including “Greenness of Energy Sources” and “Green Lifestyle,” shows just how many cities are moving forward on these metrics and making efforts to improve holistically; it also shows how much farther some cities have to go. For anyone in the green construction industry, it’s a reminder of the importance of green design work and a call to action to keep improving cities across America.

The report, which includes an interactive map, affirms what industry leaders have long identified as growing trends; across the nation, governments and companies are clamoring for environmentally friendly services. The top cities – which also include Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. – are among those that drive the multi-billion dollar green construction industry. Expert John Katers, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, reminds readers that “you see many cities taking action on a range of things such as zero waste initiatives, green buildings (LEED certification), investments in renewable energy systems, improving transportation infrastructure,” and more. As students, professionals, and retirees request green environments, construction and design professionals are meeting the demand and helping cities carry out these initiatives.

The report also serves as a call to action with its analysis of the least green cities in the country. High-scoring cities had 49 times as much green space as low-scoring cities, for example, and triple the amount of bike usage. These gaps stem from infrastructure differences in the cities, and reveal the importance of green design (like LEED) in creating environmentally friendly spaces. As these cities keep growing and join the movement toward green structures, they’ll need designers, architects, and construction workers familiar with green design and construction to bring them into the future.

Green design and construction continues to gain importance in the U.S.; stay on the cutting-edge with our LEED and energy efficiency training options.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

News Release: EPA Enforcement Settlement to Benefit KCMO Youth Center

Settlement with Home Renovation Company to Benefit Kansas City, Mo., Youth Education Center

Originally released by the US Environmental Protection Agency on October 2, 2015. EPA Contact: Angela Brees, 913-551-7940.

EPA Region 7 has filed a settlement with Bordner Installation Group, Inc., that includes a $19,782 Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) to benefit a youth education facility in Kansas City, Mo. 
An EPA record-keeping inspection revealed Bordner, a home renovation company, violated the Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule, resulting in a $21,980 penalty. About $2,200 of the civil penalty will be paid as cash to the United States. The remaining funds will be used for lead-based paint abatement of an education center at Grace United Community Ministries, Kansas City, Mo. 
The SEP requires Bordner to replace 28 windows at Grace United, which is expected to remove a significant amount of lead-based paint in the facility. The Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule seeks to reduce lead exposure from toxic lead dust that can be disturbed during renovations and repairs. The rule regulates lead-based paint activities, including renovation of residences built prior to 1978, and the certification of individuals and firms who are involved in these activities. 
EPA's recordkeeping inspection of Bordner revealed that the company failed to provide owners of homes built prior to 1978 with an EPA-approved lead information pamphlet prior to beginning work, and failed to retain records demonstrating compliance with RRP Rule requirements for lead safe work practices.

Lead exposure can cause a range of adverse health effects, from behavioral disorders and learning disabilities to seizures and death, putting young children at the greatest risk because their nervous systems are still developing. Today at least 4 million households have children who are being exposed to high levels of lead.  

There are approximately half-a-million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference level at which the Centers for Disease Control recommends public health actions be initiated.

Violating EPA regulations, even unintentionally, can result in fines of up to $37,500 per day. Protect your company by using the Lead-Safe RRP Project Binder on every RRP job to ensure that you're ready for an EPA record-keeping audit.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Green Construction is a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

New study finds massive economic impact of LEED® and green design

A groundbreaking new study commissioned by the United States Green Building Council has affirmed once and for all that green building is a key part of a growing economy. Among its compelling details, the study reveals that by 2018 the green construction industry will contribute over $75 billion in wages. On a larger scale, LEED alone will contribute $29.8 billion to the Gross Domestic Product by that time - meaning the industry and the nation will benefit.

LEED projects already supported 1 million jobs in 2014 alone; contractors across the country have long been aware of a LEED certification’s potential to bring in high-paying clients. The report highlights “economic and social benefits to owners and occupants, incentive utility program benefits, decreased lifecycle costs, and increased asset value [as] reasons that companies and individuals will continue to choose to build LEED-certified buildings,” and points out that state and national governments are especially likely to choose LEED certified contractors. Projections of spending for the coming years indicate that the field will only become more profitable as it grows.

LEED and green design boost individual companies and the nation as a whole.
Getting LEED certified can earn you more money each year.
Investors and property owners especially look for green buildings, particularly LEED certified buildings, that are good for the environment; the report shows that not only do these projects conserve resources, but those savings translate to economic savings as well. In the next three years, LEED certified projects alone are projected to create over $1 billion in energy savings, nearly $150 million in water savings, and millions more in maintenance and waste savings. These savings benefit everyone involved; property owners appreciate lower yearly costs, consumers are thrilled to reduce their environmental impact, and contractors who’ve kept up on certifications and special design or building skills find their services more in demand.

With this report, it’s clear that green building is no longer an up-and-coming industry: it is the heart of the construction field, making it crucial for contractors and workers to get with the times. The report includes an exciting description of the years ahead that will resonate with anyone in the field: “The future for the green industry is projected to see positive growth for years to come, with its influence reaching across the U.S. economy with significant environmental and social benefits being generated to protect the people and the planet. Our findings show that green building construction growth currently outpaces general construction and will continue to do so through 2018.”

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!

LEED® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC®)
. This site is not affiliated with USGBC. It does not claim any endorsement or recommendation of its products or services by USGBC.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

OSHA Enforcement of New Confined Spaces Rule Begins This October

OSHA training will keep your employees up to date
The new regulations define attics as confined spaces.

OSHA Changes Classification of Confined Spaces

Contractors across the country are preparing to change the way they work: in just a couple of weeks, a new OSHA regulation will become enforceable. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration often reviews and updates existing laws, and on October 2nd will enforce new regulations for contractors working in confined spaces. The ruling, which expands the definition of confined spaces to include attics and crawlspaces, will ask that employers carefully document their awareness of safety hazards in order to protect workers. By requiring them to write permits every time they enter a closed space, the rule will ensure that everyone on a job site understands what is going on and is prepared to work safely and efficiently.

Under this new rule, employees must be trained on confined spaces before working in a qualifying space - and as with all OSHA regulations, violators will face steep fines. While the training is not arduous, it can mean the difference between life and death for workers who will enter attics, tunnels, or other small workplaces. Recent worker deaths in attics highlighted the unusually prominent risks of electrocutions, explosions, inhalation of toxic substances, asphyxiation, and fire in these spaces.

"This rule will save lives of construction workers,” explained Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “Unlike most general industry worksites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses. This rule emphasizes training, continuous worksite evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health.” According to OSHA estimates, enforcing the regulation will prevent nearly 800 serious injuries per year - a significant number for a rule with relatively few requirements.

In order to prevent those injuries, employers must now fulfill pre-entry requirements. After a competent person inspects the space contractors will identify safety needs, test the air, remove hazards, implement controls and protections, and determine rescue procedures before putting anyone at risk. Tom Skaggs, chairman of the health committee at the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, explains that this new regulation “changes the way mechanical construction contractors approach confined space safety” - in order to protect workers, it’ll be important to think carefully and thoroughly about how to work.

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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

U.S. Green Building Council Names Mahesh Ramanujam As Incoming CEO

Originally released by the U.S. Green Building Council on September 8, 2015.
USGBC Contact: Marisa Long Public Relations & Communications Director

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Board of Directors announced that USGBC’s Chief Operating Officer Mahesh Ramanujam has been named incoming Chief Executive Officer, and will move into the role after Rick Fedrizzi, the visionary co-founder of USGBC and current CEO, steps down at the end of 2016.
“Mahesh has a highly impressive track record of success in both his role as USGBC’s COO and as President of Green Business Certification Inc.,” said USGBC Board Chair Marge Anderson. “He is a proven leader who has exhaustive knowledge of the organization, respect from its volunteer leadership and strong support from its team. He has extensive global experience and broad business acumen. He is the perfect choice to lead the organization into the future.”
“As a founder, I could not be happier, and as a CEO, I could not be more satisfied that I’ll be able to leave USGBC in the best hands possible,” said Fedrizzi. “Since Mahesh first joined USGBC in 2009, he has transformed every corner of the organization, focusing on high performance and putting the needs of our customers and community members first. His personal core values are deeply aligned with our mission and his comprehensive understanding of our work make him the ideal leader for this role.”
“I’m deeply honored that Rick and the Board have placed their trust in me, and I will serve the organization and our movement with a long-term vision – keeping innovation as a top priority,” said Ramanujam. “As USGBC’s CEO, I pledge to continually modernize and enhance our capabilities and performance to ensure we deliver the future that our founders envisioned.” 
Ramanujam joined USGBC in 2009 as Senior Vice President, Technology, before being named COO in September 2011. In December 2012, he was also named President of the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) where he broadened offerings to better serve a wider client base, leading the organization to change its name to Green Business Certification Inc. earlier this year. 
Prior to joining USGBC, Ramanujam was COO for Emergys, a business transformation consulting firm in North Carolina. As a consultant to IBM, he was part of the team that led various business transformation initiatives including the sale of IBM PC systems to Lenovo and its printer divisions to Ricoh. He also was part of the team that led business transformation at Lenovo to ensure the successful establishment of Lenovo’s global manufacturing and operating platforms.
Ramanujam is a native of Chennai, India, and holds a bachelor’s of engineering in computer sciences from Annamalai University, where he began his career in software and systems analysis and product development.

Join the green building movement - learn more about LEED and the LEED professional credentials at!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

HUD Awards $101 Million to Protect Children and Families from Dangerous Lead and Other Home Hazards

Funding to make more than 6,000 homes safer and healthier places to live

Originally released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on August 27, 2015.

WASHINGTON - In an effort to protect children and families from potentially dangerous lead-based paint and other health and safety hazards, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded over $101 million to 32 city, county and state governments. The grant funding announced will reduce the number of lead-poisoned children and protect families by targeting health hazards in over 6,000 low-income homes with significant lead and/or other home health and safety hazards (see chart below). Read a summary of each of the grants announced today at the HUD's website.

Earlier this week in Baltimore, MD, HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced the funding during a news conference with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as part of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Back to School event, promoting healthier housing to improve school outcomes. The City of Baltimore is one of the grantees.

HUD's Lead Hazard Control grant programs has a demonstrated history of success, filling critical needs in urban communities where no other resources exist to address substandard housing that threatens the health of the most vulnerable residents.

As HUD marks its 50th anniversary, Secretary Castro is focused on advancing policies that create opportunities for all Americans, including helping children and families secure quality housing by protecting them from the hazards of lead-based paint and other home health and safety hazards.

"Every family deserves to live in a safe and healthy home where they can see their children thrive and excel," said Castro. "Communities will use these grants to help eliminate home-related hazards in neighborhoods across the country. A healthy home is vital to the American Dream."

"Millions of families and children are seeing their hope for the future threatened by poor health simply because of where they live," noted Matthew E. Ammon, Director of HUD's Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes. "While we've made tremendous progress reducing lead-based paint hazards in our older housing stock, far too many children continue to be exposed to potentially dangerous lead and other health hazards in the home."

Unsafe and unhealthy homes affect the health of millions of people of all income levels, geographic areas, and walks of life in the U.S. These unsafe and unhealthy homes affect the economy directly, through increased utilization of health care services, and indirectly through lost wages and increased school days missed. Housing improvements help prevent injuries and illnesses, reduce associated health care and social services costs, reduce absentee rates for children in school and adults at work, and reduce stress, all which help to improve the quality of life.

HUD's Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes promotes local efforts to eliminate dangerous lead paint and other housing-related health hazards from lower income homes; stimulate private sector investment in lead hazard control; support cutting-edge research on methods for assessing and controlling housing-related health and safety hazards; and educate the public about the dangers of hazards in the home.

The funding announced here directs critical funds to cities, counties and states to eliminate dangerous lead paint and other housing-related health hazards in thousands of privately-owned, low-income housing units. HUD is also providing the grantees over $8.8 million in Healthy Homes supplemental funding to help communities mitigate multiple health hazards in high risk housing simultaneously, in conjunction with their lead hazard control activities.

A state-by-state breakdown of the funding announced today can be found on their website. A total of $101, 872, 990 was awarded.

Companies who can safely work with lead are always in demand, especially when new funding becomes available. Check out our courses to get certified and become eligible for these new jobs!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

10 Years After Katrina, Lead Poisoning Exposed

Recovering city works to protect children from lead exposure

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, New Orleans was devastated by flooding and destruction. Nearly ten years later, the city has been repairing and rebuilding – but with unexpected obstacles along the way. After the hurricane there was turmoil as long time residents left and newcomers moved in, changing the city’s structure. The inner city, long occupied primarily by low income families, hadn’t suffered severe flooding, but general upheaval meant residents were replaced by young, middle class families. The neighborhood has settled somewhat over the years, but recent discoveries of childhood lead poisoning mean that the inner city is once again in turmoil as residents are realizing hidden dangers in their new homes.

Lead paint removal is crucial to children's health
Long-time residents and newcomers alike face lead poisoning in New Orleans
Families and health officials in New Orleans have long been aware of the dangers of lead, recognizing that exposure to lead in childhood can lead to lifelong physical and mental health challenges. Racial tensions in the city were heightened by a pattern of inequality in health: black residents were historically twice as likely as white residents to live in neighborhoods where there children were exposed to unhealthy amounts of lead. Many children were tested for lead poisoning, and levels of lead in neighborhoods were monitored; before the storm, the risks of lead were widely recognized.

After Katrina, discussions about lead shifted: while hurricanes can produce new health problems, officials found lower levels of lead in New Orleans soil and lower rates of lead poisoning throughout the city. While the cause is still unclear, many suggest that the storm brought cleaner soil to cover and seal off lead-laden yards and parks. The lower levels of lead and the appearance of a fresh start made it all the more surprising when new residents began discovering that their children’s blood contained startlingly high amounts of lead, just as earlier residents had found.

The inner city, which had mostly been spared extreme flooding, had missed the clean soil brought in by the storm and still had the same high levels of lead that had always been present. Poor lead paint removal techniques by untrained or unknowing workers had contributed to the problem: rebuilding the city meant releasing new lead particles into the air and soil. The Environmental Protection Agency has regulations guiding how structures containing lead should be built, demolished, or renovated; EPA lead certifications ensure that workers can build while protecting themselves and the families around them. Without these certifications, workers had simultaneously rebuilt and poisoned the city that was trying to be reborn.

Some families have taken to covering their yards, cleaning meticulously, and wiping down shoes and pets to avoid any lead-contaminated dust; others have been forced to move, unable to identify the source of the contamination. Families that can’t afford to move can only watch and worry while their children inhale dangerous particles, unable to detect or avoid the threat to their health. 

There is hope, though: neighborhoods are coming together to cover backyards, clean playgrounds, and ensure that all work in the city is done smartly and safety. During these efforts, well-trained renovators and contractors are crucial; families are acutely aware of the importance of proper lead removal strategies, and the demand for EPA Certified Lead Renovators is high. With determination and proper techniques, the city is working to reclaim poisoned neighborhoods and protect children from lead exposure.

Renovation activities in older homes can create lead hazards if not performed correctly. Property owners and contractors alike should be familiar with the EPA regulations and lead-safe work practices prior to performing any home renovation or painting projects on pre-1978 structures. Visit to learn more!