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FAQs – Lead Safe Weatherization

PLEASE NOTE: Some of this guidance DOES NOT apply when Weatherization work is done in HUD program housing or when HUD funds are used. The requirements are somewhat different under the HUD’s Lead Paint Rule, and agencies that work in HUD program housing must become familiar with the differences and follow the HUD Rule when weatherizing under those circumstances.
1. If we enter a pre-1978 home, but are not disturbing more than two square feet per room of interior surface, 20 square feet of exterior surface, or 10 percent of a small component type, what are our obligations toward the clients and the crew as relates to lead-based paint?
OSHA does not recognize “de minimus” levels, and since there can be confusion on the taking and calculation of measurements, which could be an issue in a lawsuit situation, it is recommended that agencies follow LSW practices any time paint and dust are disturbed in pre-1978 homes.

The following table and text give an overview of the requirements that must be followed by any agency doing Weatherization work in homes that may contain lead based paint.

Overview Table (See detailed descriptions below).




Air monitoring is required in all pre-1978 homes (regardless of area disturbed) until DOE Negative Initial Determination (NID) data is approved


- Providing the client with EPA booklet (including record keeping and documentation) is strongly recommended
- Environmentally safe disposal of debris


OSHA places the responsibility on an employer to ensure that workers are protected from potential hazards of the job site. Even if the “de minimus” levels of two square feet per room of interior surface, 20 square feet of exterior surface, or 10 percent of a small component are not exceeded, OSHA requirements apply.

The Lead in Construction Standard (29 CFR 1926.62) requires that if lead is present in the workplace in any quantity, employers are required to make an initial determination of whether any employee’s occupational exposure to lead exceeds the action level (30 ug/m3 averaged over an 8 hour period) or permissible exposure limit (50 ug/m3 averaged over an 8 hour period). If exposure exceeds the action level, periodic monitoring is required. If exposure exceeds the permissible exposure level, more frequent monitoring and “engineering and work practice controls” are required.

The exposure is determined by placing a sampling device near the workers head and measuring the amount of lead collected in the air sampler. In the experiences of those Weatherization providers who have tested while implementing Lead Safe Weatherization (LSW), the action levels are rarely exceeded. Individual air-monitoring devices cost about $250 and testing is about $6 per sample.

The other way to meet this requirement is to have conducted enough tests under the same conditions for each specific Weatherization activity to show that the exposure levels are consistently below the action level. This is referred to as a negative initial determination (NID) and must be kept on the job site. Once the NIDs are done for each Weatherization activity being performed and the exposure is shown to be below the action level, the crews do not need to perform the air monitoring but will still be required to do LSW when necessary. See WPN 02-6.

DOE Weatherization HQ staff is collecting data from those states and organizations who have done extensive air-monitoring. Based on very positive results from worker exposure tests, DOE plans to request a permanent exemption of the air-monitoring requirements. We are optimistic that this can be done. As soon as this information is available we’ll pass it to the network. Until OSHA accepts DOE’s objective data, pre-1978 homes must be assumed to contain lead unless testing is conducted.


It is required that the agency provide the clients with the EPA booklet “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” (publication number: EPA 747-K-99-001) prior to the start of work (if mailed, at least seven days before) if the home is pre-1978 and the dwelling has not been certified to be lead free, and the amount of disturbed lead-based painted surfaces will exceed two square feet per room of interior surfaces or 20 feet of exterior surface. It is recommended that the booklet be provided to occupants of any home that may contain lead based paint (pre-1978) as a component of good client education. This EPA rule (Section 406 of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Act of 1992) also has record keeping and documentation requirements.

EPA regulations allow for disposal of everyday household hazardous materials – residue or debris containing lead-based paint, like replaced windows or discarded clothing – from homes as nonhazardous waste and thus not subject to toxic chemical disposal rules. Household lead-based paint debris, however, must be handled in a way that will not generate or discharge lead-based paint debris to the environment, either at the client’s home or in transporting to a disposal site.

While this seems to be inconsistent (i.e., you might ask yourself “If the lead paint is so harmful that we have to do LSW, why is it ok to dump it at the landfill?”), EPA seeks to relieve homeowners and contractors from the licensing and legal responsibilities (and high costs) required by law to dispose of waste that is classified as hazardous. While harmful to the family in the home, especially small children, the lead paint debris, if handled properly and taken to a waste site, where it is managed, is considerably less of a threat.

The following are EPA recommended protocols for handling and disposing of lead paint debris:
  • Collect paint chips, dust, dirt, and rubble in plastic trash bags for disposal.
  • Store larger lead-based paint building parts in containers until ready for disposal.
  • If possible, use a covered mobile dumpster (such as a roll-off container) to store lead-based paint debris until the job is done.
  • Contact local solid waste authorities to determine where and how lead-based debris can be disposed.

WPN 02-6

WPN 02-6 requires LSW procedures be followed when necessary (in all pre-1978 homes not confirmed lead free by testing). See WPN 02-6. For responsibilities to clients and crews when working in any home that may contain lead refer to “Lead Safe Weatherization: A Training and Reference Manual for Weatherization Managers and Crews (November 2003),” available from Mike Vogel, of the Training Center at Montana State University, at . Refer to Attachment A for examples of items contained in this guidance.

Local and State Regulations

Weatherization program managers should always consult local and state regulations, as they may be more stringent than those of the Federal Government.

2. All we generally do are sun screens or tune-up coolers. This does not disturb more than two square feet per room of interior surface, 20 square feet of exterior surface, or 10 percent of a small component type. Do we need to be concerned with LSW?

See Question 1.

Tuning up a cooler probably does not require paint to be disturbed, but installing sun screens could disturb the paint on exterior window trim. As stated in the response to Question 1, LSW is required in pre-1978 homes unless testing certifies the absence of lead.

3. If we encounter a pre-1978 home that requires more than two square feet per room of interior surface, 20 square feet of exterior surface, or 10 percent of a small component type be disturbed in order to weatherize it, we classify this as a "walk-away" since the cost of LSW would be too expensive. Is this an acceptable policy?

Weatherization work should not be deferred solely because the amount of lead-based paint to be disturbed exceeds de minimus levels. As the answer to question #5 indicates, the cost of LSW is not prohibitive. Of course, agencies should investigate alternative methods of installing Weatherization measures that disturb the smallest area of painted surfaces possible. Even if there are still compelling reasons not to install measures that disturb painted surfaces, Weatherization work that does not disturb painted surfaces should still be done.

4. When we encounter a pre-1978 home, is it cheaper to test for Pb-based paint prior to weatherizing or just use lead-safe work practices? What are the average costs for both?

Note: The following answer does not address start-up costs such as the purchase of HEPA vacuums.

For a local agency in Eureka, CA, the average costs1 of LSW for a typical job is $20 in materials and adds about an hour of additional labor, for a total of about $50 per house2. The typical crew contains two people. Other agencies have experienced average LSW costs somewhat higher than $50 per house. Based on Indiana's experience, the average cost for testing is $86 per house3. This includes the purchase and maintenance costs of X-RAY Fluorescence (XRF) machines, labor, and the cost of training, certification, and licensing of machine operators. Note that the XRF testing cost estimate is based on Indiana’s experience. Total costs were divided by the total estimated households weatherized. Costs for testing may be higher for your state. Also, Indiana’s XRFs were purchased with funding from sources other than DOE and are used for programs in addition to Weatherization. See Attachment B for calculations.

1 “Average costs” are estimated for interior and exterior Lead Safe Weatherization. Costs vary according to the number of surfaces disturbed during weatherization and home repair work.

2 Source: Val Martinez, Redwood Community Action Agency, 904 G Street, Eureka, CA 95501. For more information email .

3 Source: Costs estimated based on information provided by Maria Larson (Program Director at the time of research), Family and Social Services Administration, 402 W. Washington Street, PO Box 7083, Indianapolis, IN 46207-7083.

Another option for testing is to contract out the work to a licensed inspector and XRF operator. If homes are checked by a licensed professional on contract not as a part of the initial weatherization evaluation, it will usually cost $350 per home, which may prove prohibitively high.

Testing for paint during the initial weatherization evaluation takes 30 minutes extra work, primarily to prepare the report summarizing the results of the evaluation. But the start-up costs for this approach are significant. The XRF costs $18,000 (although new technology may dramatically reduce that cost). Training and licensing cost about $1000 per person. There are virtually no operating costs to using the XRF. Once equipped and licensed, program staff could branch out and provide help to clients in other areas to further leverage the investment. The advantage of checking during the initial weatherization evaluation is that the need for lead safe weatherization can be eliminated if it can be shown that there is no lead-based paint.

If the anticipated weatherization/energy efficiency work involves disturbing more than a small amount of painted surfaces, then ruling out the presence of lead in the paint would save extra time and costs associated with doing LSW practices.

The following considerations are offered as a guide to determining whether testing is worth the time and money on a case-by-case basis:
  1. Houses built from 1978 on may be assumed to be free of lead-based paint, without testing.
  2. In houses built prior to 1930, it is logical to simply assume the presence of lead-based paint and save the cost of testing.
  3. In homes built between 1930 and 1978, testing may not be warranted if the amount of paint to be disturbed is small, since it may be cheaper to perform LSW for a small area than to incur the expense of testing. However, where the amount of paint to be disturbed is relatively large, it may be worth the cost of testing, since a negative result would mean that the crews could dispense with having to perform the LSW protocols.
5. My crews have all received LSW training. How can I be sure they are applying it accurately in the field?

As with other field measures, states should develop monitoring systems. Monitors need to be trained in LSW.

6. WPN 02-6 indicates that the lead training is required for “agency crews and contractors”. Does this apply to crew members that only work on heating systems?

Furnaces have a good chance of being the repositories of lead paint dust from the house, if the house has lead paint. Therefore, a heating system technician needs to be trained in LSW. Additionally, while not every crew member or contractor will disturb lead-based paint, it is prudent for them to be trained because they will typically be in an environment where it is disturbed. An untrained worker may unintentionally circumvent the LSW practices of other crew members (i.e., walking thru lead dust).

7. How does WPN 02-6 apply to temporary workers (i.e. workers referred by an employment agency for anything from one day to a month)?

Not all workers, on staff or contractor, need to be trained, they only need to be trained if they are working in a home where lead paint surfaces are disturbed. So, if there is a possible hazard such lead paint dust from disturbing painted surfaces, there are two options:
  1. Do LSW which includes training, or
  2. Avoid the situation until the requirements of 1. are met.
Under OSHA, the Grantee and their subgrantees (i.e., the employer - even if it is a contracting relationship) have the responsibility to protect the workers, which includes ensuring that they observe practices called for under the rules. For the weatherization network, this means LSW in WPN 02-6.

Also, see Question #1.

8. What are the training requirements?

LSW training for Weatherization workers, both in-house and contractor, is critical to the protection of Weatherization clients and the workers themselves. Also, it may be helpful or even necessary in getting reasonable Pollution Occurrence Insurance. DOE requires that when the disturbance of painted surfaces is more than the de minimis levels stipulated in the EPA rule or exceeds the emissions levels under the OSHA Rule, Weatherization workers be trained in LSW. If workers have not had sufficient training, states must provide training for them before they work on homes with lead paint where painted surfaces will be disturbed in the course of doing the weatherization measures.

To help states who didn’t have a lead paint training program, DOE developed a LSW training course that became available in October, 2001. The course has an easily exportable reference tool illustrating LSW practices. This is not the only training curriculum that is available to states. There are several courses offered by EPA and HUD that would serve as sufficient training for Weatherization workers to enable them to do LSW. Although the EPA and HUD lead paint-training courses acquaint trainees with the proper work protocols, the DOE LSW training addresses work practices for specific weatherization measures. For workers who will have or have had the HUD or EPA training, states may want to augment that training with DOE’s LSW reference tool. The DOE developed Standardized Curricula can be found here. Additionally, LSW videos are available on, including: