As a commercial painter, government contracts can be highly profitable, but they come with hurdles to acquire them and extra hoops to jump through for compliance. In particular, painting projects at schools and other educational institutions have more onerous regulations to deal with – most notably those issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Today we’ll take a look at four of the major guidelines you’ll need to contend with.
#1 Paint choice
The facility may have already selected specific paint they want you to use or may have just selected a color and it will be up to you to select and purchase the specific paint and bill for it. In any case, even if the paint is provided, you must ensure that it meets the criteria to reduce chemical and environmental contaminant hazards before you apply it to any surfaces in a school or other learning facility:
- Must be a non-toxic, water-based formula
- Must be no or low-VOC paint
- Must emit low or no odor
- Must contain no heavy metals
- Must be formaldehyde free
- Must be easy to clean and maintain
- Must not be susceptible to moisture damage that can encourage mold growth
Prior to beginning any paint project at an educational facility, there are some steps you must take in preparing to work. Examine all walls, windows and doors to look for cracking, chipping or peeling paint that must be corrected prior to applying new paint. Ensure exterior paint is not flaking and contaminating soil where children may play. If you are painting playground equipment, you must be sure that no old paint, paint chips or new paint contaminates the soil in play areas. Keeping unused surfaces covered and bringing supplies for adequate cleanup is absolutely imperative.
#3 Lead Paint Considerations
If you’re working in an older facility that was built pre-1978, this is a major concern. While there are newer schools, often older buildings stay in use and are simply augmented to allow for growing student populations. If your activities will include paint removal or if there is lead paint present in the facility, you’ll need to be certified by the EPA to do this work. Your employees must be trained by the EPA, including an eight hour course to get the certification. You must also provide this pamphlet to the facility owners. It’s important to keep in mind that your preparations and cleanup will be much more extensive in the case that lead paint is present, as you’ll have to make extra effort to keep all dust and contamination contained to the workspace.
If possible, painting should not be done while children are present in a facility, but sometimes this is unavoidable. In the case where students will be in the facility while work is done, you should be aware not only of the EPA guidelines, but your state laws. For instance, New York state requires two months notification to parents of students that work will be done and mandates that workers must wear identification badges. Check your state’s requirements as soon as possible. As well, special ventilation requirements must be met to control chemical fumes and protect students from contaminants.
While any paint job requires the utmost care, when working in schools and other educational facilities, extra precautions will need to be taken and extra preparations will need to be made. Make sure that you are compliant with all applicable laws and you’ll find this sector of the painting industry to be rewarding and profitable. For more information on working with lead-based paint, or to learn our top tips for winning bids on large-scale commercial paint jobs, click the links.