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Lead Aware Times Volume 1 No. 1 ( ISSN 1440-4966)

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Smart Contractors

Accreditation, Training Courses and Experience of NSW Contractors

By Elizabeth O’Brien, Manager Lead Advisory Service (LAS) NSW

Using lead-trained contractors is the most important step in ensuring that painting and building work on your house or workplace protects your safety.

Councils are advised to specify lead-trained contractors in all council contracts regarding pre-1970 buildings and as a condition of building consents for all pre-1970 buildings in their Council area.

Demolition contractor licensing

Demolition contractors are, as of late 1997, licensed by WorkCover, but this is not to imply that they have any training in lead-safe demolition techniques.

Contact WorkCover NSW for details on 131 050.

Industrial paint removal certification

A number of industrial paint removal contractor companies have completed lead training in the US, run by the SSPC (Societies for Protective Coatings, previously called Steel Structures Painting Council).

In Australia, companies can be accredited under the national Painting Contractor Certification Program (PCCP).

Thirteen commercial firms in Australia (seven in NSW) have been accredited for the first four classes of accreditation, which are:

  1. Light Steelwork,

  2. Medium / Heavy Steelwork,

  3. Complex Structures – Heavy Steelwork; Food and Beverage,

  4. Complex Structures – Heavy Steelwork; Chemical, Mining, Offshore.

Contractors involved in the removal of hazardous paints in industrial applications and specifically lead-based paint can also be accredited. The assessment procedures and requirements have recently been finalised in a new class, CLASS 5 – Hazardous Coatings. Several contractors have applied for certification in CLASS 5, and will be audited in early 1998. At this point in time only one Company (in Vic.) has been accredited for CLASS 5. No NSW contractors have been accredited as yet.
[Update as at 5th November 2008: See PCCP Accredited Contractors by State (pages 6-9): Removal Of Hazardous Paint - Industrial Applications - Contractors Accredited to Class 5, at www.apas.gov.au/pccp/pdfs/D016S.pdf - which lists 7 companies in NSW, 3 in each of Qld and SA, one in each of Tas and WA and 2 companies in Vic.]

The safe removal of hazardous coatings is not a compulsory component of accreditation in CLASSES 1 – 4 above because many of the applicators are applying paint to new steel work and this voluntary industry self-regulation scheme has many objectives other than safe removal of lead paint.

Commercial training for domestic paint removal contractors

A small number of paint contractors in NSW have done one or more of the four commercial training courses, listed below:

  1. Sami Pty Ltd used to train contractors in the use of their product range called Peel Away. The various Peel Away formulations are designed for use on the various substrates – metal, wood, plaster, etc. Unfortunately, there is a risk that some lead from old paint will be dissolved by the chemical stripper and remain in the wood fibre, if the substrate is wood and is not properly cleaned and neutralised. Sami is no longer responsible for Peel Away;

  2. Bldcare Pty Ltd is now the sole Australian distributor of Peel Away and has trained numerous contractors in the use of these products. In recent times the training has paid particular attention to the issue of cleaning and neutralising porous surfaces, such as wood, following stripping;

  3. TAFE have recently trialled a course for painting contractors on lead paint based on US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines. The Master Painters Association has co-sponsored this course, but the course will be revised before being offered formally. The revised course will almost certainly be consistent with the soon to be released Australian Standard on domestic lead paint management [See box on next page];

  4. Lead researcher Professor Brian Gulson and lead assessor Fred Salome of CTI have run several courses on lead paint management at the Macquarie University Centre for Open Education. The courses have been attended by Council Environmental Health Officers, Building Managers and painting contractors.

In addition, three major building maintenance contractors have experience in removing lead paint from public buildings, according to Fred Salome. These three companies will undertake domestic lead paint removal work.

One building contractor in Sydney had a managing director who had a lead abatement licence obtained in the US. Unfortunately, the company went into liquidation in February 1998.

Phone the Lead Advisory Service (LAS) NSW to obtain contact details for the contractors in any of the above categories. Phone LAS on Freecall 1800 626 086. Mobile callers must phone (02) 9716 0132.

 New approach to lead abatement training

An American lead abatement firm has developed new lead abatement methods that are claimed to exceed the commonly used U.S. HUD standard.

Patrick Connor of Connor Environmental Services & Engineering Assessments in Baltimore, Maryland has developed some innovative lead abatement techniques. Connor’s view is that US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines on lead paint removal are excessive, requiring things such as double layers of 6 mil plastic sheeting, 3 bucket method, disposable overalls. They argue the HUD method is less successful than their methods:

After HUD Guidelines have been executed by HUD / US EPA trained contractors for both the paint stripping and the clean-up, still 33% of the dust samples fail the clearance guidelines.

After Connor guidelines (spray bottle, wet sanding block, split bucket method, only 3 feet wide poly plastic laid along the wall) have been carried out by attendees of the Connor course, 97% of dust samples pass the clearance testing.

Connor Environmental Services and Engineering Assessments is so confident of their innovative lead abatement techniques, they guarantee dust levels after the work is done will comply with half the level of usual dust lead HUD Clearance Guidelines.

Jason Bawden-Smith, of JBS Environmental Services and Technologies, says that he will soon publish a detailed article on the problems caused by using caustic strippers for lead paint removal, especially on porous surfaces.

The Master Painters Association (MPA) of Australia has asked Jason to develop a lead abatement training course for TAFE, which Jason says will be an Australian-modified lead remediation training course based on the highly successful Connor training course.

Accreditation, training or experience?

Patrick Connor and Jason Bawden-Smith both advised the Lead Advisory Service that accreditation or licensing of lead-paint removal services was unnecessary.

Their advice was that householders should be strenuously advised to ask the contractor if she or he is lead trained and experienced. This applies to builders, painters, demolishers, plumbers, electricians etc. [See  "Hiring a Lead Safe Contractor"].

Training courses should be of high quality and available regularly for both apprentices and those already in business. Contractors should then advertise their training and their ability to pass clearance testing.

It is not totally unacceptable to Patrick or Jason that the contractor themselves should collect the clearance dust samples or soil samples (as David Penlington of MPA suggested) as long as someone like the MPA sends an experienced lead assessor to check up say every 10th clearance assessment of a particular contractor.

Jason emphasises that the ability of a contractor to meet clearance guidelines following lead paint treatments / removal, is the most important issue for the householders. He is concerned that most courses to date have failed to train contractors in this primary objective, although Fred Salome, of CTI Consultants P/L, says some training courses have addressed clearance testing. Fred does not think the contractor should provide or carry out clearance testing. This should be done by an independent assessor or consultant. "Nonetheless, a good contractor who wants to work in this field will probably acquire clearance testing knowledge and skills, regardless of what courses are on offer", says Fred. "AS 4361.2 places a strong emphasis on not creating dust, and detailed clearance testing based on lead dust levels is not totally consistent with the general philosophy of "stabilise, remove only as a last resort, and don’t create dust when you do".

New Australian Standard for House Lead Paint Management

AS 4361.2 - Guidelines for Lead Paint Management - Residential and Commercial Buildings is due to be released in May 1998 and will be launched at a series of seminars in all capital cities in May and June. Phone Standards Australia on (02) 9746 4600 to order a copy.

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