John Jervis is executive director of the American Window and Door Institute, known as AWDI, located in Juno Beach, Fla.
Replacement Contractor: You have been involved in the window industry for a long time. What's your view of the EPA lead-safe regulations and why?
John Jervis: I have three thoughts on this. First, that it's going to totally turn window replacement on its ear. The workers are not prepared for this in terms of how they operate and how much they get paid. This is also going to change the dealer/subcontractor dynamic in ways people don't realize. And it will change the cost of doing business. No longer will there be a $189 window.
Second, I think it's probably a good thing for the window industry. Installation has always been the weak stepsister in this business. So this will be the first time I can remember that installation will govern the sale. That's huge.
My third thought is that maybe we'll start paying attention to the health and safety of window installers, some of whom have been slowly getting poisoned [by lead].
RC: What do you think the effect of these regulations will be on sales?
JJ: We get calls from dealers all the time asking what they should do to respond. You can decide if you want to work in those older homes or not. Now if you're in Las Vegas, where there aren't a lot of old homes, that's easier to do than if you're in Detroit or Rochester, where that's the only business you've got. So I suspect the effect of lead regulations will vary from market to market and have, overall, a negative impact on sales. But I can't quantify that.
RC: Is there an upside?
JJ: You've got new business opportunities to offset that loss. You've got HUD [Housing and Urban Development] money allocated for safe lead renovation. You've got state or local funds for lead-safe renovation that the diligent company is going to uncover and know about. You've got other products such as storm windows you can sell in connection with government efforts to stimulate weatherization. And if your company is certified for lead-safe renovation, you can market that.
RC: Your organization has been involved in creating guidelines for window installation since 1988. During that time, what did you advise regarding safe lead renovation or changing out windows in homes where lead-based paint would likely be encountered?
JJ: It's never been on the radar other than for commercial work. The original EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] law talking about these requirements-for certifying firms and renovators-was put in play in 1992. It was modified in 1998. In 2006, EPA had a mandate to apply lead-safe practices to residential renovation. They invited comments, reviewed the law, and built what they considered a consensus, which became the RRP [Renovatoin, Repair and Painting] rule. So here we are in March of 2008 and everybody is screaming. At AWDI, our whole effort has been to find a way to help companies implement lead-safe renovation practices with the least effect on their business.
RC: Are you involved in Certified Renovator training?
JJ: Right now there are 140 training facilities, and these are led by abatement people familiar with mold or asbestos issues. They're set up to train and they know what they're doing. Now, normally, you're going to find painters, electricians, plumbers, remodelers, carpenters, and window guys all in the same class. The window guys are not getting an awful lot of help specific to their situation. So we felt it was better to help the trainers deliver a window-specific training when we could fill a particular class with students.
RC: Have you incorporated lead-safe renovation into your certified installer programs?
JJ: We can help them learn how to present it in the home, price the job to make a profit, and make sure they've done the right lead-safe kind of job. We've developed an identification program called TLC, Total Lead Containment. That's a mark companies who are practicing lead-safe renovation can include in their marketing materials. It tells consumers we're going to protect your home and your kids by following EPA guidelines. We believe that new business will be written by those who present their EPA certification credentials and demonstrate their ability to mitigate lead poison dangers.
RC: The deadline is fast approaching. What percentage of your member window companies is actually certified?
JJ: I'd be impressed if 25% to 50% were. I think the big overlooked part here is that you have a lot of certified renovators, but how many certified firms? If you're signing a contract for a job that includes lead-safe renovation, you need a firm. Nobody ever told these companies that. So we may have 15,000 to 18,000 certified contractors and installers but most of them won't be able to work because they're not firms. As a homeowner, my relationship is with the company, not the worker.
RC: Is eight hours enough for owners and installers to understand how to work safely in homes?
JJ: I don't think it's a question of the number of hours. It's a matter of retention. You need a point of reference. I took the [lead-safe removal] course in October. Here it is March. Could I walk into a house and properly hang the plastic, do three wipes, and all that? Who's going to remember? What AWDI did was to make review sheets, with charts, that people can carry with them so they know what to do.
RC: There are going to be a lot of materials involved in containment and cleaning. Where would contractors get those?
JJ: We went live on Friday, March 19 with www.certifiedrenovatorsupply.com, a website with all the stuff that lead containment guys are going to need. It contains upward of 2,000 items - and not just for window replacement installers but for every kind of contractor affected.
RC: The EPA rules are aimed at protecting children or others in homes where they may be exposed to toxic lead dust created during the course of a renovation project. But little has been said about the people who are actually exposed to that dust on a regular basis, i.e., carpenters and other installers. Why do you think those most exposed have been overlooked by these new rules?
JJ: In a sense, they haven't. OSHA [Occupational Health and Safety Administration] defines Safety and Health Regulations in Part 1926 of its standards. Essentially, if more than one worker is doing a job, it's the responsibility of the person who employs them to protect them against toxic materials. Until recently, it was always thought that removing lead was the hazard. Now it's understood that dust is a hazard and that activity - such as removing a cabinet or pulling out a window - creates that dust.
RC: Should installers regularly be tested for lead?
JJ: I believe OSHA requires it.
RC: Say the installers test positive for lead, who would be responsible for paying for treatment and other medical expenses?
JJ: Whoever the negligent party was or is. Whatever happened two years ago happened two years ago. But from April 23 on, anyone who knowingly subjects an installer to unsafe conditions is negligent. I don't want to go too far with this, but on April 23 you might want to test every employee to get a baseline.
RC: Window replacement companies are estimating the cost of safe lead renovation at $40 to $50 per opening. What are you hearing?
JJ: AWDI has analyzed window replacement from picking up windows at the warehouse to dropping off the old ones at the same place. We've looked at how many minutes and dollars that takes and we've looked at it in the variety of situations that are reasonable to assume. We estimate 56 extra minutes per opening in labor. That should double their time. We also estimate a $36 per opening cost in disposable materials. You need two lead tests, 200 square feet of plastic per window, crew outfitting materials, HEPA-vacpath mats, bags. It all keeps adding up. Then you've got record-keeping and training. So if you're not budgeting $50 to $100 more per window you're going to have a hole in the bottom of the boat.
RC: There have been conversations about postponing implementation because so few companies are ready. Will that happen?
JJ: I hope there is an additional six months. But it may be that that additional six months will amount to maintaining the "opt out" provision for that period of time. The Sierra Club is a pretty powerful lobby. That tells me EPA is between a rock and a hard place. My personal feeling is that the EPA won't be that strict going in. But the whole law going away? I would be very surprised.