The Washington State Department of Commerce has begun enforcing new rules aimed at protecting children from poisoning by lead-based paint. The State is focused on training and education for contractors so they may apply the new nationwide rules for lead-safe work practices. Washington State’s efforts include reducing the cost of lead-safe certification to $50, a savings of about $250 per contractor.
Washington is the 11th state, and the nation’s second largest state (by population), to begin management of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule. This new rule requires maintenance and construction professionals to use lead-safe work practices when conducting painting, renovation, and repair work in schools, child-care facilities, and homes that were built before 1978. Most buildings constructed before 1978 contain lead paint. Prior to this rule, lead-safe practices only applied to designated lead-abatement projects.
“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 services and housing, in a recent press release. “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.”
Through the Department of Commerce program, Washington State charges contractors $50 for the certification. A violation of the new rule will incur a $500 fine. First time violators will have a six-month window to complete the certification course. Successful completion of the course may make a firm or individual eligible for a reduced fine.
Lead-safe work practices are important to avoid poisoning from lead dust and chips that become airborne during renovation activities like sanding and demolition. Lead particles are particularly harmful to children. Lead exposure can affect the physical and mental development of young children. About half of all lead poisoning cases in children are related to renovation and remodeling activities.
Small renovation or repair projects that disturb less than 20 square feet of exterior paint (except for replacing windows) or less than six square feet of interior surfaces are exempt from this new rule. The rule also does not apply to homeowners doing their own renovations. However, homeowners are urged to use extreme caution when doing renovation projects.
For more information about certification, licensing, training and for lists of certified/licensed renovation firms, contact the Department of Commerce’s Lead-Based Paint Program at (360) 586-5323 or visit www.commerce.wa.gov/lead. The Commerce website also includes a list of commerce-accredited lead training providers.