Thursday, June 6, 2019

Florida Senate Passes Controversial "AOB" Property Insurance Bill

Legislators have passed a bill to address a controversial
Florida property insurance practice. However,
many property owners and contractors disagree with the solution.

Recently, Florida legislators passed a bill that will reform an insurance policyholder benefit known as assignment of benefits (AOB). SB 122 seeks to clarify AOB agreements and limit lengthy litigation. However, many Florida renovation companies have contested the bill, arguing that it favors insurance companies and puts increased risks on small contractors and remediation businesses.

An assignment of benefits is an agreement that transfers an insurance claim rights and benefits to a third party, such as a contractor hired to do repairs. This means that an insurance company directly interacts with the contractor, and ultimately pays the contractor. For most contractors, this practice safeguards them against clients who refuse to pay after services are rendered. For clients, AOBs can help get a project rolling quicker than waiting around for an insurance approval.

However, the practice has been exploited in some cases. Reports of contractors pocketing insurance payouts without performing the work have been reported across Florida. In other incidences, contractors have billed insurance companies for unnecessary services. These schemes are known to industry insiders as "AOB fraud".

Due to the way that many contracts are written, property owners are legally barred from finding another contractor to do the work. Oftentimes, homeowners resort to lawsuits after they have lost control of the claim process.

In an attempt to curb this dysfunction, lawmakers have created SB 12. SB 122 provisions include:
  • Define “assignment agreement” and establishing requirements for the execution, validity, and effect of such an agreement
  • Prohibit certain fees and altering policy provisions related to managed repairs in an assignment agreement
  • Transfer certain pre-lawsuit duties under the insurance contract to the assignee and shifting the burden to the assignee to prove that any failure to carry out such duties has not limited the insurer’s ability to perform under the contract
  • Require each insurer to report specified data on claims paid in the prior year under assignment agreements by January 30, 2022, and each year thereafter
  • Allow an insurer to make available a policy prohibiting assignment, in whole or in part, under certain conditions
  • Revise the state’s one-way attorney fee statute to incorporate an attorney fee structure in determining the fee amount awarded in suits by an assignee against an insurer
  • Require service providers to give an insurer and the consumer prior written notice of at least 10 business days before filing suit on a claim.

While the intent is said to protect consumers, some property owners and contractors disagree with the bill, which was heavily lobbied for by the insurance industry.

Property owners take issue with the fact that they must go through insurance companies to determine who can make repairs and how much they can spend. Insurance companies send "preferred vendors", or contractors affiliated with the insurance company. Many homeowners have complained that the preferred vendors do not perform the quality of work that they want, which can sometimes cause further issues and claims down the road.

For contractors, the bill would further lengthen the scope of a project with additional regulations. Contractors argue that they would receive less work once insurance agencies could require homeowners to only use a preferred vendor, making it especially difficult for small businesses. Furthermore, these new rules could allow insurance companies to underpay contractors that start work on a home without pre-approval from the insurance company, which is sometimes necessary to address emergency repairs.

Proponents of the bill insist that the AOB issue lies with frivolous lawsuits which are spurred by the promise of high payouts; prior to SB 122, the brunt of legal fees fell on insurance companies.

However, property owners and contractors contend that AOB agreements leave them with few options other than litigation.

SB 122 passed in the Senate and is slated to go into effect July 1, 2019. The bill will be applied prospectively, so it is unlikely to affect lawsuits filed prior to its passing.

To read more about the bill, visit the Florida Senate website. To learn more about assignment of benefits and what it means to you as a contractor, visit Zack Academy. Zack Academy offers a variety of remediation and restoration courses.

Monday, May 20, 2019

NYC SST Safety Training Deadline Extended to December 2019

Construction professionals in New York City will be relieved to hear
that the Department of Buildings has extended the upcoming SST training deadline. Still,
they must act quickly and get their training finished before the end of the year.

The New York City Department of Buildings has extended its Site Safety Training (SST) deadlines for workers and supervisors. Now, construction professionals in the city have until December 1, 2019 to meet additional training requirements prescribed in Local Law 196.

This amended date gives construction workers and supervisors an additional seven months to complete their Limited Site Safety Training requirement (30 hours) or Supervisor Site Safety Training requirement (62 hours), respectively. Construction professionals must comply with training requirements or else face penalties from the city.

Workers who will be on job sites that must designate a Construction Superintendent, Site Safety Coordinator or Site Safety Manager, must complete 30 hours of approved safety training to get their Limited SST Card by December 1, 2019. This can be fulfilled in three ways:

WORKERS: LIMITED SST CARD - Due by Dec. 1, 2019:

30 Hours Total

Construction supervisors must fulfill 62 hours
of specialized safety training by December 1, 2019. Their training requirements are listed below:

*Combo courses - Some NYC training providers have grouped these shorter SST courses together to make it easier to complete all of your hours:
  • 32-Hour Site Supervisor SST Combo: includes 8-Hour Fall Prevention, 8-Hour Site Safety Manager Refresher, 4-Hour Supported Scaffold, 2-Hour General Electives, 2-Hour Specialized Electives, 2-Hour Site Safety Plan, 2-Hour Drug and Alcohol Awareness, 2-Hour Pre-Task Plans, 2-Hour Toolbox Talks
  • 16-Hour Supervisor Combo - includes 8-hour Fall Protection, 2-Hour Drug and Alcohol Awareness, 2-Hour Pre-Task Meetings, 2-Hour Site Safety Plans (SSP), and 2-Hour ToolBox Talks
  • 8-hour Supervisor SST Combo - includes 2-Hour Drug and Alcohol Awareness, 2-Hour Site Safety Plan, 2-Hour Toolbox Talks, 2-Hour Pre-Task Safety Meeting
  • 6-hour SST Combo - includes 4-Hour Supported Scaffold User course and the 2-Hour General Electives
  • 10-hour SST Combo - includes 8-hour Fall Prevention and 2-hour Drug & Alcohol Awareness
  • 4-hour SST General and Specialized Electives - includes 2-hour General Electives and 2-hour Specialized Electives

Full SST Card: September 2020 Deadline for Workers

The revised December 2019 deadline does not affect the next NYC DOB deadline of September 2020, where construction workers must complete their full Site Safety Training requirement (40 hours). The requirements of the 40-Hour Worker Site Safety card are listed below:

Option 1: WORKERS via OSHA 10-Hour Card - Due Sept. 1, 2020

Training Course
40 Hours
General Electives
Special Electives

Option 2: WORKERS via OSHA 30-Hour Card - Due Sept. 1, 2020

Training Course
40 Total Hours

For more information on Local Law 196, visit the New York City Department of Buildings website. For more information on approved construction safety courses, visit Zack Academy

Friday, May 17, 2019

Rose Architects Completes CAPS Certification

Fort Lauderdale, FL (May 17, 2019) - Zachary Rose, CEO of Zack Academy, owner of Rose Architects, and a local Fort Lauderdale Architect, is pleased to announce the completion of his new NAHB Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation. This certification is a major step forward for his architecture firm, which will now add accessibility remodeling to its list of specialization.

The Certified Aging-in-Place designation program is an endeavor from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), a national authority on homebuilding and homeownership. The purpose of CAPS is to help elderly homeowners stay in their homes by offering modifications that make their home more accessible to them. These modifications can include grab bars, task lighting, walk-in tubs, and more. By making their home safer and more livable, elderly homeowners can retain their independence and have an improved quality of life.

Oftentimes, senior homeowners have to make the difficult choice between staying in their home or moving into an assisted living center. These choices usually factor in accessibility, as seniors begin to have difficulty with winding staircases, slippery tubs, and high shelves. This loss of independence can feel disempowering for seniors.

Through CAPS, senior homeowners can remain in their homes on their own terms. Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists are trained in the unique needs of the older adult population and will work with homeowners to provide unique solutions to their concerns.

"The CAPS certification has given us the tools as an architecture firm to cater to the needs of our aging population and help them to design the perfect home to age in," said Rose. "The NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) has done a fantastic job of creating a certification that combines the right amount of code-driven guidelines paired with practical-and-functional ideas, and we can't wait to help our clients create their forever Forever Home!"

About Rose Architects
Rose Architects is South Florida’s Fort Lauderdale architect and interior design firm. Founded in 2012 by Zachary Rose, we have worked on numerous projects including commercial, residential, and industrial spaces. We take pride in clean, functional spaces and are passionately committed to design perfection, innovation, and sustainability. As the firm’s driving force, Zachary is a licensed Fort Lauderdale Architect in the State of Florida (lic. # AR96067), licensed General Contractor (lic. # CGC1526625), an accredited LEED AP, and a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).

Release Contact
India Edouard
Operations and Marketing Assistant
Rose Architects

Thursday, April 25, 2019

OSHA State Plans FAQ

construction workers
Understanding OSHA state plans is important to prevent unnecessary
penalties and fines for safety violations.

OSHA compliance is often discussed as if it's just one federal organization with one set of regulations; however, that it is not the case. Pursuant to Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, states are allowed to administer their own safety and health programs as long as they meet minimum federal requirements. As a result, many states have their own safety regulations that employers and workers must comply with in order to avoid fines. In this article, we answer some commonly asked questions about OSHA state plans.

What are OSHA state plans?

OSHA state plans are health and safety programs administered by individual states. These state programs must be approved by OSHA as being "at least as effective" as the federal OSHA program; however, OSHA state plans are often even stricter than federal OSHA regulations.

How are OSHA state plans different from federal OSHA standards?
  • State plans often include state-specific requirements that address local concerns such as California's heat illness prevention regulations.
  • Federal OSHA does not cover public sector employees such as law enforcement agents and emergency medical responders; however, most state plans cover private and public workers.
  • State plans often have innovative local programs that promote worker safety.

Which states have OSHA state plans?

Currently, the following states have OSHA state plans that cover private and public workers: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington,  and Wyoming.

Additionally, the following states have OSHA state plans that cover public workers only: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and U.S. Virgin Islands.

How does compliance work in states with OSHA state plans?

If you work in a state with an OSHA state plan, you must comply with state-level standards. Although federal OSHA regulations are enforced in all states, individual state plans often have additional requirements that must be followed.

How do penalties work in states with OSHA state plans?

Fines and penalties in states under state plans are similar to states under federal OSHA. One difference is that states can impose higher fines. Many states that have stricter standards than federal OSHA also issue higher fines than federal OSHA for safety violations.

If I live in a state with an OSHA state plan, how can I make sure my classes are compliant with the state?

If you live in a state covered by a state plan, there may be specific rules as to which safety training classes are accepted by the state. You can find more information about this on OSHA's directory of state plans. You can also browse safety training courses tailored for specific regions on Zack Academy.

To learn more about OSHA state plans, visit OSHA's website. To find approved safety training courses near you, visit Zack Academy. Zack Academy offers a variety of OSHA safety training classes both locally and online.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

EPA Settles with Construction Firms for $35K in Lead Paint Fines

power tools and sawdust
Two Bay Area construction companies are set to pay
more than $35,000 in combined fines for violations
of federal lead paint laws that put workers and
residents at risk for lead exposure.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled with two California-based construction companies for violations of federal lead paint laws. Seismic Retrofitters, Inc., located in San Francisco and All Seasons Construction, located in Oakland are set to pay $27,000 and $8,500 in penalties, respectively.

According to inspection reports from EPA, both companies failed to comply with federal lead-safe practices set by the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule. Among the violations, the companies were found to have:
  • Failed to comply with occupant notification requirements such as telling residents about the renovations in advance of projects
  • Failed to retain proper records of projects such as ensuring that a certified renovator performed post-renovation cleaning verification
  • Failed to possess required lead paint renovation certifications
EPA's RRP Rule requires contractors working in housing or child-occupied facilities built before 1978 to adhere to strict renovation rules in order to protect workers and residents from lead paint exposure. Exposure to lead-based paint can cause a myriad of health issues such as bone, blood and neurological disorders. Lead exposure is particularly dangerous for children as their systems are still developing and any interference can cause irreversible outcomes.

Lead-based paint has been outlawed at the consumer level since 1978; however, many old buildings still contain the toxin. Unregulated renovations can release lead particles into the air, soil, and water supply. As a result, it's extremely important for all contractors to take precaution when disturbing structures that may contain lead.

"Reducing childhood lead exposure and its health impacts is a top priority for EPA. We will continue to diligently enforce our requirements to ensure children, workers, and residents are properly informed and protected," Mike Stoker, EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator, said in a recent press release.

To learn more about the report, visit EPA's website. To learn more about lead paint certification and how your company can avoid costly fines, visit Zack Academy.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

USGBC Announces Top 10 States for LEED in 2018

The USGBC announced its annual Top 10 States for LEED
with Illinois taking the top spot. Overall, green building
continues to be at the forefront of construction and design.

Earlier this month, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) announced its annual Top 10 States for LEED. The list showcases states with significant growth in green building and sustainable design. For the year of 2018, Illinois ranks first in the nation for the most square footage of LEED-certified space per person.

Illinois has been a leader in green building for some time; the state previously took home the top spot in 2015. This year, Illinois' projects such as the LEED Gold certification of the Willis Tower has helped reduce waste and carbon pollution while creating healthier, more affordable environments for its citizens. Recently, Illinois celebrated Chicago reaching its Better Buildings Challenge in just five years; the windy city reduced its energy usage by over 20 percent through improved design and an inclusive approach to energy efficiency.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is one of the most popular rating systems used to guide construction and development across the globe. LEED certified projects have a commitment to reducing waste and using sustainable, eco-friendly designs. A tenant of LEED is making use of existing materials, and Illinois exemplified this through its Retrofit Chicago program which renovates old buildings and increases their overall building performance.

Other states trailing not far behind Illinois include Massachusetts and Washington. Altogether, the United States completed nearly 3,000 LEED projects in 2018 for a total of more than 615 million square feet of both commercial and residential space.

Overall, LEED and other affordable green building initiatives are becoming more popular in the United States. Beyond a macro level, consumers increasingly want the energy savings that come with sustainable housing. Local governments are also realizing the potential of LEED with some states choosing to refit their affordable public housing with improved sustainable design.

But most importantly, did your state make the list? Check out the top 5 ranking states here:

To view the entire USGBC Top 10 List, visit their website.
To learn more about LEED and how to become accredited in this exciting industry, visit Zack Academy.

OSHA Increases Maximum Penalties for 2019

construction worker using drill
OSHA increased its maximum penalties against employers
for all types of safety violations. These new fines apply to all
citations issued after January 24.

Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration (OSHA) raised its maximum penalties against employers for safety violations. Fines increased across all classes of penalties, and will apply to all citations issued after January 24.

The schedule of 2019 OSHA maximum penalties are:
  • Other than Serious violations: $13,260
  • Repeat violations: $132,598
  • Willful or Repeated violations: $132,598
  • Failure to Abate: $13,260 (per day)
These penalty increases only apply to the 26 states controlled by OSHA; however, states that operate their own occupational safety programs must also increase their fines to align with OSHA standards

Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, civil penalties across federal agencies are required to adjust fines annually to keep up with inflation. In 2016, OSHA penalties increased by 78 percent to bring the penalties up to date; this year, OSHA penalties increased by 2.5 percent.

Contractors and construction supervisors can avoid fines by first making sure they have appropriate OSHA training. From there, educating themselves on the most common OSHA fines can help with overlooked violations. It's also important for employers to be aware of OSHA deadlines for posting, reporting, and training; failure to post or submit records can carry penalties of $13,260.

To learn more about OSHA penalties, visit their website. To learn more about OSHA training, visit Zack Academy. Zack Academy offers the best in-person and online vocational training.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

NCHH Announces $25K Lead Poisoning Prevention Grants

three people putting hands together
The National Center for Healthy Housing will aid at least
eight small, undeserved communities in fighting
lead poisoning.

Last week, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) announced a funding opportunity to help American communities fight lead poisoning. Through their lead poisoning prevention grants, NCHH will help at least eight communities tackle childhood lead poisoning locally.

NCHH's lead poisoning prevention grants will equip communities with the education and resources they need to build up a lead paint task force. Specifically, the grant would provide over a year of training and support from a network of national experts such as NCHH and the Environmental Defense Fund. Communities would learn how to create effective policies and lead-safe practices through expert mentoring as well as peer-learning with other selected communities. The grant also awards the community $25,000 for lead poisoning prevention and a customized cost-benefit analysis to help leaders decide which strategies work best for their community.

The grants serve as an opportunity to address health inequities in undeserved communities where lead poisoning is common. Statistically, low-income communities are disproportionately affected by lead exposure. Smaller low-income communities often don't have the resources to fix pervasive lead contamination.

County, local, and tribal government agencies are able to apply for the grant until March 22. Communities will be selected based on demonstrated need, potential for policy change, and a thoughtful plan with clear goals for the funding opportunity.

To learn more about NCHH's 2019 Lead Poisoning Prevention Grants, visit their website. To learn more about lead paint certification and how to get involved in lead abatement efforts as contractor, visit Zack Academy.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

New Haven Lawmakers Question Costly Lead Project

apartment building exterior view
New Haven city officials and public advocates are embroiled in a debate
over the costs and process of a single apartment's lead abatement.

In Connecticut, lawmakers and public health officials are engaged in a debate of the possible mismanagement of public funds for lead abatement. The city of New Haven spent $32,000 on the abatement of a single apartment. According to the New Haven Public Department, the abatement was a court-ordered, emergency procedure that was successfully completed; however, lawmakers assert that the project was too costly, too slow, and a symbol of the inadequate response to a growing lead poisoning crisis in Connecticut.

The clash centers around a New Haven apartment, which was recommended for lead abatement in August 2017 after a child tenant tested positive for lead. According to New Haven Health Department officials, Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the health department to take over the project in July 2018 and relocated the child tenant and his family to a nearby hotel for the rest of the project. Between the relocation and the abatement, the total cost of the project amounted to roughly $62,000.

"Nothing was out of the ordinary [about the project]," Paul Kowalski, New Haven City Director of Environmental Health, said in a recent press release.

Lawmakers and advocates disagree. At a City Hall committee hearing, legal aid attorneys from the New Haven Legal Assistance Association (NHLAA) raised the question of why the abatement process took a full year to complete.

"What we're looking for is an open and transparent conversation," Amy Marx, NHLAA attorney, said in a recent press release.

City officials were unable to directly answer why the abatement process took so long. They were also unable to clearly answer why the project ended up in litigation and resulted in a court-ordered emergency abatement.

Regarding the steep project cost, city officials state that the apartment is located in a historic district so the abatement work had to meet certain standards set by the State Historic Preservation Office. Furthermore, the city put a lien against the property after the abatement to recoup the costs. The property was sold for $210,000 which reimbursed the city for the project costs.

"The property was sold, and the city was paid in full for all the money that we put up for the abatement and for the relocation," Frank D'Amore, Deputy Director of the New Haven Livable City Initiative said in a recent press release.

Legal advocates are still concerned over the high price tag, which they imply came from the eleventh-hour abatement. A slow and inconsistent response, they allege, is fueling a lead poisoning crisis in New Haven. The child tenant in question tested at 6 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood back in August 2017, which is already one microgram higher than the federal blood lead level response trigger. By July 2018, the child tenant reached 17 mg/dL.

NHLAA reviewed data from the Connecticut Department of Health and said that there may be more than 350 children in New Haven suffering from lead poisoning in similar situations.

The New Haven Health Department has previously come under fire from three separate state judges. In the past, the city was nearly held in contempt of the court for its inadequate lead paint inspections, its failure to keep electronic records of its lead paint related notes, and its failure to follow up on the status of abated properties.

To learn more about the committee meeting, visit the original article in the New Haven Independent or read the minutes from the New Haven Registrar. To learn more about lead abatement and how to get involved in this important field, visit Zack Academy.

Georgia Requires Green Building for Public Housing

As part of its public funding plan, Georgia will require housing projects to
earn a sustainable building certification in order to qualify for tax credits.

Last week, the state of Georgia announced a new rule that will help bring energy efficiency and sustainability to undeserved communities. The new rule requires Georgia housing projects to earn a sustainable building certification in order to qualify for tax credits.

The new guideline is part of Georgia's 2019 Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP), which determines which housing projects qualify to receive Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Under Georgia's 2019 QAP, sustainable building certification is a mandatory requirement for housing projects. LEED is one of several certification options. In addition to meeting the certification requirement, housing projects are required under the QAP to engage in tenant and building manager education in compliance with sustainability program. This will help foster participation in the energy efficiency programs provided to these communities.

The new rule echoes the 2019 goals of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which are outlined in the QAP. The Department of Community Affairs seeks "better health outcomes" for its residents through thoughtful site selection and site design. These objectives reflected goals that are supported through LEED certification. 

Georgia has historically been a leader for LEED and green building. In 2017, Georgia was named one of the Top 10 States for LEED with more than 71 certified projects. This year, Georgia will host the annual Greenbuild conference, one of the biggest sustainable design conferences in the industry.

To learn more about Georgia's sustainable building certification, visit the Qualified Allocation Plan. To learn more about sustainable design and how to get involved in this dynamic career path, visit Zack Academy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

New Law Tackles Lead Service Lines in Washington D.C.

lead service lines faucet bathroom sink
Washington D.C.'s new lead service line law brings awareness
to prospective homeowners while helping current property
owners replace their toxic lead pipes.

Recently, Washington D.C. passed a new law concerning lead service lines on residential properties. The new law requires property owners to disclose the presence of lead service lines to prospective homeowners and renters. The law also codifies financial support for homeowners who received partial lead service line replacements so that their pipes can be fully abated.

Under the new law, property owners renting out residences must provide a lead disclosure form before the prospective tenant is bound by any contract to rent the unit. The form will disclose the results of any lead tests conducted on the unit's water supply. The form will also disclose any known information on lead service lines on the property, whether or not the line has been replaced, and any civil fines previously imposed on the owner for violations of this disclosure requirement.

Additionally, Washington D.C. will provide financial assistance for homeowners to receive full replacements of partially-abated lead service lines. Furthermore, all property owners who want to have their lead service lines replaced can do so with greater assistance; property owners will only have to pay for the portion of replacement on private property while the district will pay for the portion on public property.

The law builds upon action previously taken by D.C. officials to remediate lead service lines in the district. Lead service lines are a dangerous source of lead exposure. The pipes, or lines, that bring drinking water to residents can often erode over time. As they age, the lead material in them can leach into the water supply. Often times, homeowners are unaware as to whether or not their pipes contain lead. This means that lead exposure can persist undiagnosed in residents until it's too late.

Other states have begun to enact stricter rules regarding lead service lines. After the lead poisoning crisis in Flint and Washington D.C.'s own ongoing lead exposure issue, the dangers of aging lead pipes became a concerning topic for civilians and lawmakers alike.

Washington D.C. estimates there are 48,000 lead service lines on private property. That means 46 percent of their service lines could eventually be a source of lead poisoning.

The new law in conjunction with previous action such as its online, interactive map of lead service lines in the district and its prioritization of full service line replacements will help reduce lead exposure. The new law is a significant step toward ensuring the safety of all residents.

To learn more about the law, visit Washington D.C.'s website. To learn more about lead exposure and how to get involved in this work field, visit Zack Academy.

Residential Renovations Impacted by Updates to Oregon Asbestos Rules

asbestos exposure warning sign
The state of Oregon debuted four new rules concerning
the disposal and handling of asbestos.

Last fall, the state of Oregon updated its asbestos rules. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) implemented four new rules concerning the handling and disposal of asbestos-containing material. These new rules include new disposal requirements, laboratory testing, and the introduction of an asbestos survey that must be conducted for all residential buildings built before 2004.

The biggest change is the residential renovation asbestos survey. Now, all Oregon homes built before 2004 must have an asbestos survey conducted with an accredited inspector prior to demolition and renovation activities. The only exception is for homeowners performing their own renovation; however, this does not include owner demolitions.

Previous rules not only exempted residential renovation projects from asbestos survey requirements, but allowed contractors to forgo notifying the state of demolitions for all buildings if contractors didn't believe asbestos was present.

The new pre-demolition and pre-renovation survey requirement serves as a notification for everyone who will be affected by asbestos abatement; however, there are more notification forms that may be required depending on the scope of the project.

After these asbestos survey reports are performed, they must be submitted to DEQ. As part of the new rules, these surveys must meet DEQ standard requirements and include all required information about the project.

The two new rules surrounding asbestos survey requirement will help protect homeowners, workers, neighbors, and disposal site workers from accidentally coming in contact with asbestos.

The third big update is a new rule for asbestos disposal. Now, non-friable asbestos must be packaged the same as friable asbestos for waste disposal. Friable asbestos refers to any asbestos-containing material that can easily crumble and release asbestos fibers. Non-friable asbestos can become friable if improperly handled, so creating one streamlined standard will better protect workers and residents from asbestos exposure.

Lastly, the state of Oregon now requires laboratories that analyze bulk asbestos samples to participate in a nationally recognized accreditation program. Effective January 1, 2021, this requirement will create a common level of accuracy and precision in analyses. DEQ plans to maintain a public list of accredited asbestos laboratories on its website.

To learn more about the new Oregon asbestos rules, visit their website. To learn more about asbestos certification and how to get involved in this field, visit Zack Academy.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Illinois Lowers Blood Lead Threshold for Children

childhood lead poisoning children's toys
In an effort to reduce childhood lead poisoning, Illinois
lowered its blood lead threshold for children while
increasing fines for lead paint violations.

This week, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) lowered its blood lead testing level for children. The new testing level, which is the minimum threshold for triggering public health outreach, has been lowered to 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (μg/dl). The new rule aims to reduce childhood lead poisoning in one of the most afflicted states in the nation.

Prior to the legislation, children had to present with a lead level of 10 μg/dl in order to trigger a public health intervention. New research, however, has indicated that no amount of lead can be considered safe. Like all heavy metals, lead poisoning is cumulative. This means small amounts of exposure over time can build up. The effects of lead poisoning are pronounced in children because their bodies are still developing. The longer a child goes without medical intervention, the more likely that their symptoms will be irreversible.

Now, Illinois' blood lead level threshold is in line with the latest recommendation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The new lead law will help more children receive medical attention before it's too late.

"The new lower action level means more children will be identified as having lead poisoning, allowing parents, doctors, public health officials, and communities to take action earlier to reduce the child's future exposure to lead," Dr. Nirav D. Shah, IDPH director, said in a recent press release.

Furthermore, the new lead paint rule will increase the maximum fine for lead paint violations. That means that property owners who fail to perform lead remediation in homes where lead-poisoned children are identified will face hefty fines. The same goes for contractors and remodelers who work on properties containing lead paint without a lead-safe renovator certification.

Illinois has one of the highest rates of childhood lead poisoning in the United States. Part of this is due to its old housing stock as old lead-based paint is the primary source of exposure in these cases. Another factor is lead-contaminated water; Chicago housing, for example, was built with lead pipe plumbing up until 1986 and there are more than 400,000 lead service lines still in use in the city.

Illinois state law already requires that all children six years or younger be tested for lead. The new lead paint rules will continue to support national effort to stop childhood lead poisoning.

The new rules will become effective in a few weeks and will be available in the Illinois Register. To learn more about lead paint certification, visit Zack Academy

OSHA Authorizes Drone Technology for Inspections

OSHA drone technology
Last year, OSHA authorized its agents to use drones for
inspections on dangerous and remote job sites. The benefits
and drawbacks have been debated by industry experts.

Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum that authorized OSHA inspectors to use drone technology to collect evidence during investigations of certain workplaces.

According to the memo, OSHA inspectors are only allowed to use unmanned vehicle system technology, or drones for enforcement purposes in areas that inaccessible or pose a safety risk to inspection personnel. That means that only worksites such as collapsed buildings, chemical explosion sites, and other disaster areas would ever potentially see drone technology.

Furthermore, OSHA must have consent from the employer or supervisor of the jobsite before using drones for inspection. Everyone on site must be notified of the drone inspection prior to the launch.

From this perspective, drone technology is poised to revolutionize the construction industry. By reducing costs and preventing injuries, drones could streamline the inspection process for these remote work sites. Faster inspections mean faster enforcement so that unsafe work practices are curbed before employees are seriously hurt on the job. Considering that construction is one of the most dangerous industries in U.S., any safety improvements for workers should be considered.

"Anything that we can do to eliminate a hazard here an employee can be injured through the use of technology, that's great for me," Clark Peterson, vice president of environmental health and safety for New York-based construction group Skanska USA, said in a recent press release.

Still, some industry insiders are concerned about drone use in the workplace. Many take issue with the current OSHA inspection protocol, which allows for citations on violation "in plain sight". Some worry that aerial inspection could drastically change what is considered plain sight. In this case, legal experts advise employers to clearly define the scope of the investigation beforehand.

However, the memorandum states that OSHA is seeking a Blanket Public Certificate of Waiver of Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration. Once OSHA has a COA, drones can be implemented nationwide. It's unclear if OSHA will require employer permission if the COA is granted.

In this era of construction, tech on the job site is not going away. Drone inspections are just one of these new construction industry advances. The benefits and drawbacks are of equal importance when considering to opt in or out of drone inspection. As the technology expands, it's important for construction workers to stay in the know about these industry updates.

To learn more about the OSHA inspection drones, read the official memo. To learn more about the construction industry and how to get involved in this exciting field, visit Zack Academy.