Since June of 1999, remodeling contractors have been required to notify building occupants of possible lead hazards before doing all but minor work on buildings constructed before 1978. Under the terms of Rule 406, as it's commonly known, the contractor must give each household an EPA pamphlet entitled "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home" and obtain signatures to prove that the notification requirement was met (see "Get Ready for the Lead Information Rule," Notebook, 6/99). Not surprisingly, receiving and signing for the pamphlet produces some anxiety on the part of many remodeling customers. To put them at ease — while protecting both their health and that of our workers — our company, Design Plus Kitchens and Baths, follows a series of on-the-job safety procedures that we learned from a lead-safety consulting firm. It took some time and effort to get started, but the out-of-pocket cost was very reasonable. Apart from training costs, we spent about $2,000 to come up to speed originally, and yearly operating costs are a few hundred dollars at most. That small investment provides several benefits. It practically guarantees that our customers and workers won't suffer from work-related health problems caused by lead exposure, and it protects us from associated legal and medical costs. Because lead-safe practices result in a clean, well-managed work site, it leads to happy customers and good referrals. Finally, it's a valuable marketing tool. I know of at least two jobs we got from competitors last year because their only response to customers who asked about lead containment was to tell them not to worry about it. If you can provide specific answers to people's concerns, you're adding value to your whole operation.

Unless a potential client brings it up, I don't say much about lead safety during initial sales calls except to mention that all of our people have been trained in lead-safe work practices. That prevents clients from being alarmed when you pull out the lead-safety pamphlet at contract time and ask them to sign off on it. The real discussion...

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