A booth at the Wichita Home Show designed to educate do-it-yourself remodelers on the dangers of lead may get substantial traffic from professionals who are curious — or furious — about impending regulations.
"These rules will create added cost to small-business owners and to homeowners," said Wess Galyon, president of the Wichita Area Builders Association, which stages the annual show.
"And I don't think that's a positive."
Beginning in April, federal law will require contractors who work in homes, child-care facilities or schools built before 1978 to be specially trained and certified and to follow more stringent work practices to prevent lead contamination.
The new rules apply to anyone — carpenters, electricians, painters, plumbers and others — being paid for projects that disturb more than 6 square feet of potentially contaminated surfaces. Failure to follow them could result in fines of as much as $37,500 per day.
State regulations have not been finalized but could be more restrictive than those outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA, for instance, will require at least one person on a work site to be certified in lead-safe work practices. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is proposing that all workers be certified, which requires an eight-hour class and at least two hours of hands-on training.
State officials are just beginning to line up training sessions, said Tom Langer, program manager with the Kansas Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Prevention Program. He said he understands that the short window for compliance — having workers trained by April 22 — has many contractors concerned.
"They understand the need. What they're wanting to know is, 'How can we comply? Please help us,' " Langer said.
The state hopes to have its regulations finalized by the end of the month, he said, and at least five companies certified to train contractors before the rules take effect.
Meanwhile, the Home Show booth is part of a new campaign to better educate homeowners on the dangers of lead chips and dust. It features a video and handouts with questions to ask if they plan to hire a contractor, as well as precautions to take if they plan to do the work themselves.
"This is a change that's going to affect homeowners no matter what they do," Langer said.