Clarifying Environmental Training Requirements

Environmental health hazard

It seems as though every time you turn around, your rental property falls under a new environmental regulation. Cal/OSHA, EPA, DHS: It’s enough to confuse ever the most experienced property manager. Which employees are required to have training, How much, and how often. This article will try to simplify and define what is required by law and what is recommended for keeping you in a “safe harbor.”

Lead

Properties built prior to 1978 are assumed to have lead hazards, mainly from lead-based paint. Lead can also be found in soil and other locations on the property. Unless your property has been certified by a state-approved inspector/assessor to be lead-free or lead-safe, you must assume that there is potential for exposure to your employees (and residents). Like asbestos, even if you have no direct knowledge of the presence of lead, an owner can be held liable if precautions are not taken to protect residents and workers from exposure. Anyone who conducts painting, repairs, renovation or remodeling or who supervises employees who conduct painting, repairs, or remodeling that may disturb lead is required to have some level of lead training. The California Apartment Association and local chapters offer a 7-hour course, which teaches safe work practices around lead-based paint and other lead surfaces. This Cal/OSHA compliance course gives hands-on training to maintenance workers, including training in personal protective equipment. This training does not teach students how to abate lead. It teaches them how to avoid performing tasks, which would result in lead exposure. This course is provided for owners/operators, management companies, maintenance workers and property vendors (e.g., painting companies, renovators and restoration companies).

Asbestos

If your property was built prior to 1981, barring evidence to the contrary, it is presumed that there is an asbestos risk. If you can not prove; that your staff completed a basic training course on this hazard, you could be in violation of OSHA and EPA Regulations, with penalties of up to $25,000 per day, per violation. The two types of training that are required for the multi-family industry are Type III and Type IV asbestos related training. Type III asbestos training is broken into two different class types. This first is an all day asbestos maintenance worker course and the second is a Two-day asbestos competent person course. This second course is required to supervise the maintenance worker (i.e. if you have a class III maintenance trained worker, you must have a class III competent trained supervisor). The type IV asbestos related training is an awareness/refresher class that usually runs 2-3 hours, which is required once for any one who may disturb asbestos materials and yearly for any Class III trained person.

Mold

It is well known that there are no current regulations either Federal or State that require a specific type of mold related training; however, there are published guidelines that address disturbance of mold damaged material and the standard of care required. There are two different training classes that are currently offered. A mold awareness that outlines the health issues, understanding the legal ramifications and outlines the cleaning procedures. The second is a two-day maintenance course that teaches the on-site maintenance staff how to effectively clean small-scale projects without creating an occupant or worker exposure to potentially harmful mold. Without understanding the risks of mold exposure, the legal arena surrounding this toxic tort, and ways to effectively manage a mold project, you could be putting yourself, employees and residents in a volatile situation.

The California Apartment Association and its network of chapters and Divisions, offer a wide variety of environmental training, including those mentioned above, call your local CAA Chapter today form more information. A calendar of training offered can be found on caanet.org.


About the Author

Wendy L. Buller, President of Benchmark Environmental Engineering, has been in the environmental industry since 1986 specializing in asbestos, lead and indoor air quality. Her firm, Benchmark, specializes in building inspections, environmental engineering, specialized training and contract management. Clientele include NASA-Ames, Local Cities, California Apartment Association, Property Management Firms, Architects, Contractors and others.