We are constantly hearing complaints from contractors about RRP and losing work to the underground economy. Unfortunately, some would rather just complain and not do anything about it. We all know that government has a history of passing regulations without enough resources for enforcement. This is clearly evident with RRP. This year we have witnessed the lack of awareness by contractors and consumers due to a sub-par advertising campaign. The EPA has acknowledged that they need to improve their efforts in this area and I know personnally that they are doing more now in New England than earlier in the year. I agree it is not enough, however whether we like it or not, it is what it is. They need help to create a level playing field.
The question is what can and will we do NOW as an industry with the hand that has been dealt? Constant complaining has not changed the EPA's course. In a few days the extension of 6/18/2010 is over. All firms who work on pre 1978 properties must be certified and contractors must prove that they have scheduled their RRP training. The scheduled training must be completed by 12/31/2010. The efforts of the NAHB and NARI and a few Senators gave many contractors a small reprieve, however the course remains the same.
Constant complaining without action to make a difference is unproductive. It is time to focus on the solutions to create a level playing field. We must demonstrate the willingness to police ourselves no matter how unpleasant that may sound. When we see someone violating the lead law or sound safe building practices do we continue to ignore it and let another consumer experience an illegal job? Or do we stop and talk to the contractor and let them know they are making it harder for all of us by working illegally. Or should we drop a dime to the local inspector. You may say this is not something you would do, but I assure you many contractors have changed their mind on this matter and they are making the call. They are sick and tired of losing work to the underground economy. They are not waiting anymore for inspectors who have limited resources. They are going on the offensive in their community and making a call. How do you feel when you follow all the rules and you lose out to the ones who don't? Will you continue to accept this reality and then complain about it?
Would you want to know?
Imagine your child came home from school and he was bullied by some spoiled brat. You go to the school armed with the names of the bullies but no one will corroborate your child's story. You know the names of the kids who witnessed it and they clam up. You even talk to the parents of the witnesses and still no one fesses up. How do you feel now? Will you pusue it? Damn right you will! It is your flesh and blood.
Surely not reporting underground contracting is not as serious as failing to report child bullying, but the concept is the same. Why should legal contractors tolerate losing jobs to the underground community when we bust our chops to be legal and do the right thing only to end up sucking pond water!
The Lead Law has been around for two decades and our industry has not solved the problem so the government has moved in to address it. It would have been great if the residential industry and our trade organizations solved this problem first so the government stayed out of affairs. However, we all know now that this is not the case. The EPA and State of Massachusetts have focused more on outreach than enforcement this year. Next year they will start the real enforcement. We have a short window to encourage others to certify before the fireworks begin in 2011. Until then, enforcement will be sparse unless members of our industry provide some assitance.
I predict in the next year we will see a huge increase in contractors reporting on others who do not follow the rule. In addition, homeowners who are starting to learn about this law, will report anything that seems out of the ordinary. OSHA has hired more inspectors and they are going into the neighborhoods and they are FINING right now. The tide is turning where legal contractors are starting to be part of the solution to cleaning up our industry by making the call. Where do you stand?