Lead in construction standard reopens for review

OSHA is looking to the construction industry for advice about a lead hazard regulation that went into effect in 1993.

Agency officials announced June 5 they would accept comments concerning the standard through Sept. 6. Upon review, they will determine if the law should be amended or if it is even necessary.

According to a Federal Register notice, the last review of the standard in 2002 prompted concerns from the National Association of Homebuilders, which said the law was too broad and inconsiderate of small business owners. The standard requires testing for lead exposure, provisions to protect workers from exposure where lead is present and medical monitoring of exposed workers.

“Unlike the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the legislation looked at the construction industry in general,” a representative of NAHB’s environmental issues committee said. “It did not separate remodelers and maintenance workers from bridge and highway builders.”

According to NAHB, the standard came about when lead was already becoming nonexistent in some products. But the broad requirements for renovation activities in older establishments could cost contractors billions of dollars, especially in properties built after 1978 that were not as susceptible to lead-based paint hazards. The government required paint producers to stop putting lead in paint in 1978.

“So many remodelers have ceased working in structures constructed prior to 1978 rather than comply with unnecessarily costly requirements and expose themselves to new liabilities,” a NAHB study documented.

According to OSHA, however, the lead in construction standard was prompted by a growing concern about possible exposure in the general construction industry, which had been excluded from lead laws until legislation in 1992 required a regulation that would make contractors responsible for providing medical, safety and hazard coverage to their workers.

Construction workers involved in paint removal, building and bridge renovation, plumbing and water system repair and replacement are often exposed to lead, according to an OSHA press release. Overexposure to the element can cause serious damage to the body’s blood-forming, nervous, urinary and reproductive systems.

Three comments have been submitted to OSHA since Friday, said Elaine Fraser, program information specialist.

You can send comments regarding the regulation to: OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. H023, Technical Data Center, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20210. If your comments are 10 pages or fewer, you can fax them to (202) 693-1648. You can also submit comments electronically at the federal eRulemaking portal or at OSHA’s website. For your comments to be taken into consideration, you must clearly identify yourself.