Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Want to Join a LEED Committee? How to Make Your USGBC Volunteer Application Stand Out

LEED Volunteering opportunities are extremely competitive,
but the USGBC offers some simple tips to help your
application stand out more.

Each year, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) calls for volunteers to participate on their LEED Committees. Volunteers get exclusive networking opportunities and other incentives. The competition is stiff- and this year is no different as USGBC only expects to appoint 40 volunteers. Luckily, the USGBC has provided some tips to make your application stand out.

Tips for your LEED Committee Volunteer Application

  • Be multi-faceted: Do you hold a LEED credential? Are you certified in more than one credit category? Elaborate on this in your application- professionals who have experience with the LEED system have a competitive edge.
  • Be unique: If you have any talents not specifically related to LEED- such as serving on a research team, public speaking, foreign language skills, a background in another field- this is your opportunity to sell them. Your unique experiences can bring a new perspective to committees.
  • Speak up on changes: Do you have ideas on how the LEED rating system could be improved to better serve your sector? Do you see unique opportunities for LEED in your region? Do you have suggestions on how improve the LEED certification process? LEED Committees put ideas into action- put your ideas on your application.
  • Work a USGBC member organization: This one is a requirement for volunteers. If your company is not a member yet, tiered membership options are available.

Some of this year's most interesting projects include sustainability initiatives in public schools and Chicago's Greenbuild expo. More volunteer opportunities are available depending on experience level.

For USGBC members, serving on a LEED Committee can be an amazing opportunity to further their career. Volunteers collaborate with leaders in various industries- such as engineering, public health, wildlife conservation, and more- to come up with real solutions to tackle's today's sustainability issues. LEED professionals can even report up to half of their volunteering hours as continuing education.

To learn more about LEED volunteering opportunities, visit the USGBC website. To learn more about LEED exam prep and LEED continuing education, visit Zack Academy.

RRP Rule: Registering as a Lead-Safe Firm With EPA

The EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) Rule requires proper training on lead-safe practices, as well as a Lead-Safe certification for your business. In a previous post, we covered the steps that Lead Renovators must complete for their business certification if they work in EPA-Authorized states, or states with their own individual lead programs.

Today, we will cover the process for businesses that work in EPA-Controlled states, which include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming.

If you work in: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, or Wisconsin, view the special state registration requirements.

For the EPA-enforced states, an application is required to register your company as a Lead-Safe Firm to perform RRP work. This firm certification is required even if you are a sole-proprietor! The application can be completed before or after you or your employees attend the Lead Renovator course, so we recommend submitting it as soon as possible to avoid delays on the job site. 

To complete the Firm Registration, visit the EPA's firm certification page (http://www.epa.gov/lead/getcertified). The firm registration costs $300, and you will be prompted to pay EPA directly online as part of the registration.

When you click on the "apply now" button, you'll be brought to a search page. Complete the search form even though you haven't registered your company yet - you'll be prompted to start a new application at the end of the page.

Note: You can skip the "certificate number" field on this page

At the bottom of the search results you will find the New Application Link:

EPA's website will ask you to verify which registration you want. For RRP work, select New Renovation Firm for $300:

You will be directed to the EPA's Central Data Exchange (CDX). Through this portal, you'll create an account and complete your registration:

After you complete the registration, you will receive an email confirmation. Your Firm Registration Certificate will also be delivered via e-mail, typically within a few weeks. The certificate will have your company's name on it, as opposed to your RRP certification certificate which has your individual name or your employee's name on it.

The Firm Registration is valid for 5 years. To renew a Firm Registration, contractors can simply re-apply online using the Search function.  Not having the Firm Certification is one of the most common EPA enforcement actions, so register you company today to comply with the RRP rule requirements and avoid excessive fines.

To register for a lead renovation class, visit Zack Academy. We offer the the most comprehensive online schedule for RRP initial and refresher classes, with easy registration.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Judge Refuses to Dismiss Sherwin-Williams Lead Paint Lawsuit

sherwin-williams lead paint case
A federal judge denied Sherwin-Williams' motion to 
dismiss a lead paint lawsuit against them.

Last week, a federal judge in Wisconsin denied a motion to dismiss a lead paint lawsuit against Sherwin-Williams.

The plaintiff, Glen Burton, through his guardian ad litem Susan M. Gramling, sued Sherwin-Williams among 10 others for alleged injuries due to exposure to lead paint in the plaintiff's residence. The lawsuit was invoked under the risk contribution theory - or the theory that if a plaintiff cannot determine the exact manufacturer of the specific paint that caused them harm, they may sue all of the industry leaders. In the plaintiff's case, the paint had been in his residence since before he moved there.

Notable lead paint lawsuits have been won under the risk contribution theory. According to the theory, the individual manufacturer becomes responsible for proving that they did not produce the paint in question.

Sherwin-Williams argued that the risk contribution theory cannot be invoked unless a plaintiff can prove an "insurmountable obstacle" prevented them from determining the manufacturer of the lead paint in their residence. According to Sherwin-Williams, the plaintiffs should have had the paint chemically tested to narrow down the list of potential manufacturers.

Judge Lynn Adelman denied the motion after concluding that the plaintiff did not need to provide a "prerequisite need" to apply the risk contribution theory to his case.

"I am not persuaded that the law of risk contribution imposes such a threshold burden on WLC plaintiffs," Judge Adelman said in the judgement.

Furthermore, Judge Adelman said that the applicability of the risk contribution theory has already been established by the state supreme court; therefore, it would be "illogical and repetitious" to require the plaintiffs to complete more testing once lead paint was found in the plaintiff's residence. The court added that requiring plaintiffs to demonstrate that they have tried but failed to identify the manufacturer would neither improve the integrity of the process.

The case will continue through the Milwaukee County Circuit.

To learn more about this case, visit the court document. To learn more about lead paint safety certification and how to get involved in this field, visit Zack Academy.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

OSHA Reminds Workers to Stay Cool this Summer

osha warning
OSHA reminds workers of safety tips to
prevent heat illnesses on the job this summer.

This summer, OSHA is reminding all employers and workers to take precaution against heat illnesses. With a brutal heatwave sweeping the northern hemisphere, it's important for anyone working in a labor-intensive field to brush up on heat illness facts to prevent accidents before they happen.

The reminder comes directly from several state OSHA programs. In sunny states such as California, the local OSHA program reiterates the importance of common heat safety protocol. However, some surprising states such as Oregon are emphasizing the risk of heat illness. In typically colder states, workers may not be accustomed to working in warm temperatures, putting them at a higher risk for heat stroke and heat sickness.

"Prevention really comes down to taking several important precautions," Penny Wolf-McCormick, health enforcement manager for the Oregon OSHA branch, said in a recent press release.

Heat illnesses cover a range of disorders due to exposure to heat. These can include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat rash and heat syncope. Symptoms of heat illness include dizziness, nausea, confusion, dry skin, and an abnormally rapid pulse. If left untreated, people can die from certain heat illnesses such as heat stroke.

Working long hours of strenuous tasks in heavy protective gear only increases the risk of injury. However, it is possible to prevent heat illness with proper safety.

To prevent heat-related illness, OSHA recommends these heat-safety tips:
  • Perform the heaviest, most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day.
  • Use the buddy system (work in pairs) to monitor the heat.
  • Drink plenty of cool water- aim for one small cup every 20 minutes.
  • Water light, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing.
  • Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas - allow your body to cool down.
  • Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages - they can dehydrate the body and increase the risk of heat illnesses.
If someone on a job site presents with heat sickness symptoms, workers should follow this protocol:
  • Move them to a cool, shaded area but do not leave them alone.
  • Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
  • Provide cool water to drink.
  • Try to cool them by fanning them, spraying them with a cool mist of water or applying a cold, wet cloth.
  • If they do not feel better in a few minutes, call 911 for emergency services.

To learn more about the OSHA standards for occupational heat exposure, visit their website. To learn more about OSHA training, visit Zack Academy.

RRP EPA-Authorized States: Registration Requirements for Renovators

After a contractor gets their lead renovation (RRP) certification, they need to make sure their business is registered with the appropriate governing body. For most contractors, that means they only have to register their company with the EPA. However, if you're a contractor working in one of the 14 EPA-Authorized "special" states, there's a few extra steps your business needs to take in order to be compliant with lead paint safety laws.

EPA-Authorized states are states that have been granted permission by the EPA to run their own lead-safe renovation program in lieu of the EPA's federal program. These state programs are either equal to or more stringent than the EPA federal requirements. These state programs also have their own bureaus for keeping track of lead work- so contractors have to register with them directly.

For EPA-Authorized states, there are two types of registrations they may be asked to complete:
  • Individual Registration: Refers to an application submitted to enforcing body after an individual completes the Lead Renovator training class.
  • Firm Registration: Refers to an application submitted to an enforcing body that denotes your company is a lead-safe firm and is licensed to perform RRP work. This is required even if you are a sole proprietor.
In all EPA-Authorized states, contractors are required to complete a Firm Registration. In some EPA-Authorized states, contractors must also complete an Individual Registration. Both of these registrations are required in order to be compliant with federal lead-safe laws. If an unregistered contractor performs work on properties containing lead paint, they can face thousands of dollars in fines.

The EPA-Authorized "special" states include: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

If you work in these "special" states, take a look at the registration requirements we've gathered below. For more information on EPA-Authorized states, check out some of our previous posts on special state reciprocity and special state renewal requirements.

Please note: all fees are subject to change.

EPA-Authorized State Registration Requirements

Individuals performing RRP work in Alabama must register with the University of Alabama's Division of Environmental and Industrial Programs - the annual fee is $100. In addition, Renovators must work under an Alabama-certified contractor. This annual fee is $300, paid to the Alabama Department of Public Health. View Alabama website and forms.

After class, individuals must register with the state which is a $100 fee (view DE forms). The training and certification are valid for 2 years. Individuals must work under a company that is registered via the DE RRP Firm Certification Application - this app can be completed online and is also a $100 fee and valid for 2 years.

Individuals performing RRP work in Georgia must register with the Georgia EPD after attending class. The fee is $150, and it is valid for 3 years. In addition, Renovators must work under a Georgia-certified firm, which is $125 for 1 year, or $300 for 3 years. View Georgia RRP Application Forms.

Individuals performing RRP work in Iowa must register with the Iowa Department of Public Health. This fee is $60 every year. Renovators must also work under an Iowa-certified firm. There is no fee for the firm certificate at this time. On their website, they show you how to register online through their portal (Iowa Firm Application & Iowa Renovator Application)

Individuals performing RRP work in Kansas must register with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Kansas Individual App. There is no fee at this time. In addition, Renovators must work under a Kansas-certified renovation firm Kansas Firm App. This fee is $200 for the initial firm certificate, with a renewal cost of $100 every five years.

Individuals and firms performing RRP work in Massachusetts must register with the Massachusetts DLS (MA Renovator Application). The fee is $375, and it is valid for 5 years.

The annual Firm registration fee for MS is $350, paid to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) (Mississippi Firm App). Individuals performing RRP work in Mississippi must also register with the Mississippi DEQ after class (Mississippi Individual App). The first two individual Renovators at a firm can be registered with MS at no additional cost. After two Renovators, additional certified employees are $75 each. View updated fees and forms at the MS Lead Program Website.

North Carolina
After class, individuals must register with the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services. Contractors must also register to become a Certified Renovation Firm, and there is a yearly $300 fee. The Firm Certification must be renewed every year. View all forms at the NC Public Health Website.

Firms must be certified to perform RRP work in Oklahoma. The firm fee is $300 paid directly to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and it is valid for five years - the application can be downloaded here: Firm App. Individuals do not need to put in a separate application to the state to become certified.

Firms must be certified to perform RRP work in Oregon. The fee is $250 paid to the Oregon Health Authority and it is valid for five years. Or if you are a contractor registered with Oregon CCB (Construction Contractors Board) and you already have a contractor's license, the fee to become a certified firm is $50 and you should submit the Oregon CCB Lead Renovation Firm Application. Visit the OR Health Authority Website to learn more and view forms.

Rhode Island
Individuals performing RRP work in Rhode Island must register with the Rhode Island Department - the fee is $40 and is valid for five years. Renovators must work under a Rhode Island-certified Lead Hazard Control Firm. This fee is also $40 and is valid for five years. Visit the Rhode Island Department of Health website for more information and forms.

After attending the RRP class, Utah requires individuals to be registered for a fee of $110 per year (View Utah Individual Application). Firms must also be registered with the state as a Lead-based Paint Renovation Firm for $110 per year. Find more information visit the Utah DEQ Website.

Renovation firms must register with the Washington Dept. of Commerce and pay a $25 fee, which is valid for 5 years. Individuals who would like to perform RRP activities in Washington state but were certified by the EPA or other authorized state can do so by registering and paying a $25 fee, which is valid for 5 years. For current applications and additional info, visit the WA Lead RRP Program website.


Renovation firms must register with the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services and pay a $75 fee, which is valid for 2 years. Registration can be completed online or by mail. Individuals who would like to perform RRP activities in Wisconsin but were certified by the EPA or other authorized state can do so by registering and paying DHS a $50 fee every two years, and attend the Renovator initial or subsequent refresher training every 4 years. Individuals who attended training out of state and have a valid training certificate can apply for reciprocity with WI via a $25 additional fee. View all WI Lead Renovation forms and further details at the WI DHS website.

To register for a lead renovation class today, visit Zack Academy. We offer the the most comprehensive online schedule for RRP initial and refresher classes, with easy registration.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

New Technology Propels Trauma Scene Cleanup Industry

Trauma Scene Cleanup isn't an industry for everyone, but
technological advancements and increased awareness
has made it an in-demand profession.

After the last police car rolls away and the yellow tape has been cut, who is responsible for remediating crime scenes? The job is much more than cleaning up putrified tissue, human waste, or toxic drug residue. Trauma and Crime Scene Cleanup Technicians are the unseen force that restore normalcy and stability to these affected areas - but new industry developments are bringing this in-demand trade to the forefront.

Historically, crime scene cleanup was relegated to the victim's family. For many, facing the grisly scene of such personal trauma was too much to bear. Moreover, scientific advancements in the 20th century raised concerns over exposure to bloodborne pathogens and chemical residue. The need for trained technicians gave way to crime scene clean up- and today it's a viable profession.

Technological advancements in cleaning - such as new chemical solvents and new machines such as specialized vacuums and decontamination units- are propelling the business. An increased awareness that the job even exists has created a market for people brave enough to face drug busts, violent crime scenes, and other biohazards. With specialized training, trauma and crime scene technicians are finding a booming industry with opportunity for growth. Market research has valued the crime scene cleanup market at $346 million in 2012.

"There are very few barriers for entry," Tina Bao, senior vice president of marketing for a crime scene cleanup company, said in a recent interview.

However, technicians are not just required to be good at decontaminating hazardous materials- they need to have great people skills, too.

"We deal with whatever's left behind. We go in with the mindset that we're there to help - to do whatever we can to help that family, and that's really what gets us through each job," Ketih Bosse, a crime scene cleanup technician in South Carolina, said in a recent interview.

The job is one done in honorable silence.

"We keep it as discreet as we can. You want to know that someone has meth in your neighborhood, but you also don't want to know, you know?" Jared Herbert, a meth decontamination specialist in Utah, said in a recent interview.

Although there is no required certification to enter this field, reputable technicians agree that education is extremely important. Learning how to use commercial cleaning equipment and the federal standards for hazardous materials are key to a successful cleanup. Furthermore, as this industry rapidly expands, states are beginning to draft up their own local laws governing crime scene cleanup. North Dakota, for example, now requires businesses to get permits before they handle hazardous materials.

Still, the job is not for everyone. The work can be both physically and emotionally taxing- but the type drawn to the profession can usually find reward in it.

"There are days that make you lose your faith in humanity. But then something happens with a positive outcome. You get somebody to smile for the first time in a week. There's something very rewarding about that," Dan Reynolds, a crime scene cleanup specialist in Illinois, said in a recent interview.

To learn more about Trauma and Crime Scene Cleanup training and Meth Decontamination training, visit Zack Academy's restoration homepage and hazardous waste homepage. Zack Academy offers the best in-person and online vocational training courses all in one place.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Late Payments from Clients Cost Construction Industry $40B Annually

construction business
A report from a construction loan software provider found that
late payments from clients add on 3.3% to total project costs,
or $40 billion a year across the construction industry.

In business, everyone knows you have to spend money to make money. But there comes a point where business owners must decide just how much is too much. In its Construction Payment Report 2018, construction loan software provider Contract Simply found that late payments from customers cost the commercial construction industry $40 billion annually.

The study surveyed 1,300 respondents across the trade and found that 88% of contractors wait longer than a month for payment. Another 46% of contractors cover the gap with business or personal savings and credit lines- which results in extra financing fees. More than 80% of surveyed contractors said they've had to file a lien against a project due to slow payment- which results in unplanned legal fees. Furthermore, late payments prevent contractors from meeting their payrolls and invoice obligations. Altogether, these figures represent an invisible 3.3% add-on to total project costs.

More than 70% of surveyed contractors said they'd be willing to discount their invoices if clients would agree to pay in a month. That would put an estimated $18 billion back in the hands of builders, developers and lenders.

Contract Simply suggested in their report that digital invoicing and payment could speed up the payment process. Traditional routes such as filing liens can create tension between all parties on a project, in addition to be an expensive and slow way to ensure payment.

To learn more about the report, visit Contract Simply. To learn more about project management and how to enhance your business revenue, visit Zack Academy's Business Practices homepage. Zack Academy specializes in online and in-person vocational training solutions- learn more today!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Construction Companies Seek AI Solutions for Safety

A Boston construction company is one of hundreds of companies
implementing artificial intelligence to monitor worker safety
and stop accidents before they happen.

Is artificial intelligence the next step for the construction industry? A Boston-based contractor says yes. Suffolk Construction is developing an algorithm that can identify construction site hazards- and intervene before injuries occur.

The AI project will analyze photos from job sites and match the images with accident records. The program will be able to tell project managers when too many safety violations have occurred so they can retrain workers on proper safety protocol. Eventually, the program will be able to "see" hazards and violations, and predict these risk before they happen.

In an industry where workers are killed on the job five times more often than others, artificial intelligence could be very beneficial to the health and safety of workers. Seasoned construction workers can be very educated on OSHA, but a computer detect the exact distance between a scaffold and a building, the exact weight load of a platform, and whether a machine was properly locked out or not. 

"It's about introducing a high level of predictability in an unpredictable environment," John Fish, CEO of Suffolk Construction said in a recent press release.

While Suffolk writes its own algorithms, it uses another company to help obtain the data to analyze. Smartvid.io has several clients which have helped to provide case studies that prove data analytics can reduce job site injuries- and improve productivity.

In one case study provided by Suffolk Construction, the use of artificial intelligence and data analytics helped their construction team provide better field documentation. Workers taking pictures of sites was time consuming and error prone; the AI analytics provided better documentation which helped their workers be more prepared for the worksite. This lead to a reduced time for field documentation and reduced the time workers spent on dangerous worksites.

The use of data analytics and artificial intelligence has been rare in construction - as opposed to similar labor industries such as healthcare and manufacturing. Part of this is because construction margins are slim, so conventional methods are still going strong.

"People know how to build the way they know how to build and it's hard to convince most of them to do things any other way," James Benham, CEO of the construction technology firm JBKnowledge, said in a recent press release.

Suffolk is not the only construction company looking into technological solutions. The McKinsey Report, a digest on construction and manufacturing trends, show an increased interest in bridging bytes with bolts. Indeed.com, a popular job board, showed a jump in construction jobs with an emphasis on a tech background.

In an increasingly tech-supported world, artificial intelligence can help construction workers save lives and save time. All efforts to improve worker safety should be considered- there's no margin for error when it comes to your life.

NJ Seeks Lead-Safe Certified Contractors for Home Improvement Program

RRP Lead Safe New Jersey
Put your Lead Renovator Certification to good use with Jersey City's Home Improvement
Program. The city is looking for certified renovators to repair low-income
homes and remove health hazards.

Are you a Lead Safe certified renovator based or doing business in New Jersey? The City of Jersey City is looking for contractors to participate in their CDBG Home Improvement Plan. Through federal funding, Jersey City plans to renovate low income homes. Renovators will perform necessary repairs and address health hazards and code violations in owner-occupied 1 and 2 family units.

To qualify for this work opportunity, applicants must be in business as a contractor for at least two (2) years and submit the following documentation:
  • Copy of contractor registration/license with the State of New Jersey
  • Copy of Business Registration with the State of New Jersey
  • Valid EPA Lead Safe Work Practices (RRP) certificate
  • Proof of Liability Insurance with $100,000 Property/$300,000 Injury Liability Limits
  • Proof of Workers' Compensation Insurance for all employees
  • Three references with client's name, phone number, project address, description of work performed and photos of the project
This program is a great way for local contractors to expand their business while giving back to their community. All New Jersey certified renovators are eligible; however, women and minority owned businesses are especially encouraged to apply.

For more information about this program, please contact Jersey City's Division of Community Development at (201) 547-5087. To learn more about lead paint certification in order to qualify for this work opportunity, visit Zack Academy

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

EPA Releases New Lead Dust Standard for Public Comment

epa lead dust OR childhood lead poisoning
As part of last year's federal order, EPA released its new dust-lead
health standard for public comment. The new standard is a significant
reduction and will apply to properties covered by the RRP rule.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal to lower the dust-lead hazard standards for public comment. The proposed standard will reduce the threshold from 40 µg/ft2 and 250 µg/ft2 to 10 µg/ft2 and 100 µg/ft2. The standard will apply to properties under the RRP rule, including houses built before 1978 and child-occupied facilities.

The proposal is part of a federal order from last December. The Ninth Court of Appeals ruled that EPA had taken too long to act on a 2009 petition for tougher lead regulations, and ordered EPA into action. Now, EPA is halfway to updating some of its lead standards which have not changed in nearly 17 years.

Lead dust is a major source of lead exposure. When old homes are disturbed either through renovation or deterioration, flakes of lead-based paint can quickly become airborne. Lead exposure can cause irreversible bone and reproductive defects, kidney disease, organ failure and cognitive delays. Childhood lead poisoning is a national concern as it can go undiagnosed in kids until it's far too late to help them.

"Reducing childhood lead exposure is a top priority for EPA. Lead-contaminated dust from chipped and peeling lead-based paint ins one of the most common causes of elevated blood lead levels in children. Strengthening the standards for lead in dust is an important component of EPA's strategy to curtail childhood lead exposure," Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator, said in a recent press release.

EPA will accept comments on the proposed rule for 45 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0166-0001. It's important to remember the comment process is not a vote, so even one well-supported comment can be more influential than a thousand form letters. For tips on submitting an effective comment, click here. If you have experience with lead dust and want to share your opinion, the public comment period is open until August 16, 2018 and can be submitted online here.

Reducing lead exposure is an important step toward protecting our communities. To learn more about the rule, visit EPA. To learn more about lead paint and how to get certified to work in this industry, visit Zack Academy.