Who rules lead safety: EPA's RRP or OSHA's 1926?

While there has been a lot of discussion in the remodeling industry regarding implementation of RRP, very little is being discussed regarding OSHA Rule "1926" because OSHA rules and regulations have been thought to mostly be reserved for larger renovations and light and heavy commercial work.

While the universal goal is to rid pre-1978 homes that contain lead paint of the hazard of lead poisoning, there is disagreement in terms and definitions among a bunch of government agencies. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission considers paint containing less than 0.06 percent lead to be "lead free." OSHA does not. OSHA's mission and that of the CPSC (as well as HUD and others who address lead in paint) are different. Whereas, the CPSC's mission is to protect consumers from harmful consumer products, EPA's RRP mission is to mitigate the hazard to the residents of lead dust during renovation. OSHA's role is to protect workers from health and safety hazards, including exposure to harmful levels of lead, whatever the source. Accordingly, for all tasks governed by OSHA's Lead in Construction standard (29 CFR 1926.62) involving paints having any level of lead, employers must comply with the assessment measures and any applicable protections of that standard.

If an employer is working with paint which contains any amount of lead, including those with less than 0.06 percent, in such as way that would generate airborne levels to which employees may be exposed, it is the employer's duty to conduct exposure monitoring (or use objective or historical data as defined in 29 CFR 1926.62(d)(3)(iii) through 1926.62(d)(3)(iv)(B) and in 29 CFR 1926.62(n)(4)) to demonstrate that the Lead in Construction standard's action level (30 micrograms/cubic meter of air) is not exceeded. How many of the certified firms are conducting this monitoring? And, this monitoring is necessary for levels below what current RRP lead test kits need to show a positive result. The results of the exposure assessment then determine whether the employer would need to apply the further protections of that rule. If the levels of lead to which employees are exposed are below the action level (which may occur when the levels of lead in paint are very low and work is being done in such a way as to not disturb the paint and, therefore, generate airborne concentrations of lead), then the further requirements of the standard would not apply.

What this can mean is that the lead test conducted by a certified renovator using the approved test kits may show no lead (less than 1.0mg/sqcm), eliminating the need to use RRP to protect the homeowner, but the actual lead level may be such that OSHA rules apply. And, CFR 1926 pretty much requires the same steps (collection, cleanup, disposal), as RRP, but to protect the workers. Remember, the current RRP tests show a "lack of positive" rather than true "negative."

It is also interesting to note that Personal Protective Equipment (suits, masks, gloves, etc.) are not strictly required by RRP, but are required by OSHA 1926 when more than 1 worker is present. Back when a homeowner could opt-out of lead safe work, the employer was still obligated to protect their employees.

To be well-informed, and therefore well-prepared for Lead Safe Work practices, each firm working in pre-1978 residential buildings should be 100 percent familiar with RRP, OSHA 1926, and any of their state's (or municipality's) regulations to be sure they are in compliance and protecting their customers, their workers and their business.