By Diane M. Calabrese / Published December 2023
Don’t go it alone. Assuming or guessing will only lead to trouble when regulations and technical changes are in the mix. Both are in the mix each day as regulations multiply and refinements in equipment and approaches keep coming. No matter where a business resides in our industry—manufacturer, distributor, or contractor—keeping pace with expectations from regulators is part of doing business.
Start locally. Know the requirements for operating a business and follow them. Get required licenses.
Liaise professionally. Join an organization (e.g., CETA, PWNA, UAMCC) that helps keep its members up to date on requirements in the regulatory realm. Provide feedback on the impact of regulations.
Train and refresh. Keep team members alert and focused.
The trio of local, professional, and team engagement is essential. At the federal level OSHA, EPA, NIOSH, DOT, and more produce regulations that must be met.
Moreover, there is crossover in the attention federal entities give to issues. EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], for example, has a prohibition against tampering with equipment. More familiar regulations from EPA encompass pollutants in air, water, and land.
EPA rules come to our industry from many directions. The EPA rule on lead renovation and painting (RRP) imposes strict containment requirements on any activity that may dislodge lead paint. When using a pressure washer on a surface that has a lead-paint coating, the wastewater must be disposed of in accordance with the local water authority’s rules for lead paint-contaminated water.
Local water authorities vary in structure. Some are independent bodies. Others are municipal. Yet all are involved in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System [NPDES].
The NPDES requires states to report pollutants, and to do so they sub-assign responsibilities. Each state takes different approaches to monitoring or collecting data, but ultimately water authorities are involved, whether they are city, county, or independently owned.
The city of Houston, TX, requires contractors using pressure washers to be permitted as a city-regulated waste pressure washer. Permitting accomplishes many things, including giving the city the opportunity to be sure that vehicles and tanks used by power washing contractors are in good working condition.
Yes, regulators are linked in more of a web configuration than a dendrogram. As the NPDES permitting illustrates, many federal rules ultimately bring in states, local communities, and nongovernment bodies.
For contractors and others who seek a lucid and sufficiently detailed explanation of how environmental regulations for collection of wastewater ties to the environmental goal of clean water, we have read no better document than Mobile Power Washing and Environmental Regulations from the Ohio EPA. [See https://www.epa.ohio.gov/static/Portals/41/sb/publications/powerwash.pdf.]
Add to the federal level the rules that come from states. The rules for small off-road engines (SORE) from California Air Resources Board (CARB) that are being implemented in the Golden State have implications for everyone. Basically, they will eventually have to be met by any manufacturer that wants to sell equipment (new or used) in California.
More than affecting sales, though, the CARB rules are serving as a template in other states (e.g., Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia). The EPA cedes environmental regulation in California to the state because its standards are deemed so stringent.
The SORE rules from CARB have received much attention from manufacturers in our industry, and rightly so.
CARB aims at a future with zero emissions equipment (ZEE). “The transition underway has been and will continue to be a major technical issue for CETA,” says R. Calvin Rasmussen, CEO of Royce Industries L.C. with headquarters in West Jordan. UT.
Rasmussen has given testimony to CARB as it developed rules for pressure washer engines. He and others were instrumental in persuading CARB that more time was needed for manufacturers of pressure washers to comply with the SORE rule that imposed stricter emission standards for engines with displacement greater than or equal to 225 cc.
It’s not only carbon emissions that CARB (and EPA) want to reduce with SORE rules but also oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter. [For more about SORE fundamentals, history and future see the CETA Edge article published in February 2022 in these pages: https://www.cleanertimes.com/magazine/cleaner-times-articles-2/more-including-four-years-more-on-sore/.]
Beyond government entities there are organizations dedicated to safe practices, training, and certification. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA.org) disseminates information to promote safety (and save lives) through 300 consensus codes and standards.
NFPA is one of the many nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that shapes the rule making at OSHA. American National Standards Institute, ANSI, is another that informs the rule making at OSHA.
Standards-establishing NGOs also reach agreement among themselves, and training in certain areas often entails a framework developed by cross-group agreements. Members of PWNA who have taken advantage of training required to comply with NFPA 96 and ANSI/IKECA (C-10 2021) needed for kitchen exhaust cleaning certification have immediate appreciation of how the standards organizations collaborate to benefit all.
Members of industry collaborate within standards organizations. They bring their concerns along with insight into how improvements can be made in safety (and training). They tackle small and large concerns.
Consider the “point of work” element of 2024 NFPA 70E. Anyone who has had an electrician or contractor visit a home knows the experts assume nothing. Voltage testers are part of their repertoire. NFPA aims to be sure that both AVTs [absence voltage testers] and PESD [permanent electrical safety devices] are correctly and prudently deployed.
The AVT/PESD discussion amplifies the way that OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] takes a wholistic approach to its purview. OSHA leaves much of the sorting of particulars to employers.
OSHA 1910.242(a) is the general standard that assigns broad responsibility to a business owner concerning equipment, including pressure washers. It reads: “Each employer shall be responsible for the safe condition of tools and equipment used by employees, including tools and equipment which may be furnished by employees.”
Some OSHA standards, such as fall protection and hazard communication, are explicit. Even so, the layperson concept of OSHA alone generating workplace rules is incorrect. It’s much more complicated.
It’s difficult to keep pace. Large manufacturers typically have a person dedicated to following updates. Such an assignment is a necessity.
In addition to the cabinet-level (direct or component) regulating bodies, there are uniquely established commissions. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USPC.gov) is one. USPC gets involved in product recalls, such as one in 2022 that involved two big-store brand pressure washers that posed carbon monoxide leak hazards. (The source of the problem seemed to be a faulty self-start mechanism.)
Carbon monoxide is one of many chemicals that NIOSH [National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health), which is part of the CDC, monitors for health effects. Operating any combustion engine in even a semi-enclosed space is a risky undertaking. And if absolutely necessary—e.g., under a roof on poles—carbon monoxide levels must be monitored closely.
DOT [Department of Transportation] was mentioned in passing. It, too, continues to issue rules affecting members of our industry. Because of licensing requirements for vehicles and businesses, DOT regulations are easier to follow. If there is a new weight restriction for a vehicle or trailer, it will not be possible to register the conveyance without documenting compliance.
Is the foregoing a way of acknowledging that permitting or licensure requirements for equipment and service activities ensure that all are current on rules and technical updates? In one sense, yes, and it’s something to consider.
A flowchart (dendrogram) has a way of simplifying things. So do lists, especially ranked ones. But with the tangle (web) of regulations and technical expectations for our industry, there is lamentably no such streamlined advice. However, there is plenty of assistance.
Federal entities offer subscriptions to email alerts. So do many professional and standards organizations. The cited groups also offer varieties of on-site and online training.
Training has reached new levels with virtual reality immersion experiences and simulators. Conventional methods of training by mentoring, interacting often with team members to informally assess, also apply. There’s no better way to reinforce new protocols than with multiple approaches to training.
Choosing a web to analogize regulations and technical changes affecting the industry is a bit tempered. The proliferation of rules and modifications can often seem like an avalanche. (Even more so when we realize that only a fraction of the defining parameters for the industry has been covered here.)
Part of the problem may be that while professional and standards organizations have been trying to coalesce around protocols, government regulators continue to subdivide. Choose any federal agency and look at the number of divisions, centers, and organizational areas within its domain.
Less fragmentation among regulating bodies might go a long way to consolidating expectations for industry. Thus, more time would be freed for innovation and improvement.