Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the new EPA 6H Rule and its requirements for collision repair facilities. But you’re probably not prepared for a visit from your state’s environmental inspector.
State vs. EPA
Every state can either adopt the federal regulations or enact its own version of the rule. The states’ rules have to be at least the same as, or stricter than, the EPA’s. So, during our most recent Indiana Auto Body Association (IABA) meeting, we viewed a video of one of our state’s inspectors explaining the Indiana regulations, along with what he would be looking for during a shop visit.
The next day, when I was back in my office, I almost had a panic attack as it occurred to me that I was totally unprepared for a potential visit from an inspector. Even though I had already complied with the federal regulations concerning paint booths, prep stations, painter training, filter efficiency, spray guns and compliance notifications, I now had a new list of requirements that I needed to address.
Notifying the State
One of the first things I had to do was notify my state that our shop is a vehicle refinishing operation that’s in compliance with the state’s version of the EPA 6H rule. So I created a notification letter to send to the Office of Air Quality in Indianapolis. Yes, I know I should have done that last, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere!
Next, I had to arrange refresher training for my painters, as Indiana requires that this be done before May 1 each year as opposed to every five years as the EPA requires.
Then, it was off to the local home improvement store to purchase covered trash containers and plastic can liners in order to comply with the rule: “All paper, cloth, plastic or other materials that have been contaminated with coatings or solvent shall be stored in closed containers until disposed of off site.” Now, all of these items are put in a covered trash can, in a plastic liner, until they’re sealed and put into a dumpster.
Another housecleaning rule I had to put into effect pertained to the mixing room. No longer are we able to leave lids off any materials that emit VOCs into the atmosphere. If the lid is not on the can, you better be working with it when the inspector is there. As for the paint gun cleaner, along with the lid remaining shut while not in use, you must have an instruction manual at or near it at all times.
More rules concerning VOCs involve recordkeeping. We must now maintain, and provide for inspection, records of the products used on each refinishing job done in our shop. These records must contain a long list of information including job number, date, and all coatings, catalysts, reducers, hardeners and the substrate to which it was applied.
You must also provide the VOC content as supplied per calendar month, number of containers used and the volume of each container. This part of the rule has my paint representative scrambling as my mixing system is unable to print out this information, even though it can store it. It also got my paint supplier’s attention as they must also maintain and supply records of all coatings sold. Gone are the days of selling paint to anyone who walks in the door without regard to what they’re going to use it for or how it will be applied.
The last of the recordkeeping requirements are material safety data sheets or MSDS sheets. For a period of three years following the use of any product, you must be able to provide the MSDS sheet to verify the product’s VOC content.
Don’t think for one minute that you’re exempt from the rule just because you use waterborne/low-VOC paints. You still have to track VOCs for all the products sprayed in your shop.
As for the cost, getting compliant was relatively inexpensive since we already had the proper spray equipment, prep stations and paint booths. Training and housekeeping items were the only things we spent money on.
My employees accepted the changes with little resistance, but a little arm bending was required to get them to clean up after themselves and keep lids on thinner cans!
We’re fortunate that Indiana has decided to inspect and create violation notices without fines for approximately one to two years. However, if a violation is found during an inspection, and on any subsequent inspection visit the violation hasn’t been corrected, a fine would be issued. Plus, the fine will be made retroactive to the first day of the violation.
For instance, your state decides to fine you $100 for a violation they found 30 days ago that you’re not in compliance with. Writing that $3,000 check is going to hurt! Even worse for me would be having to explain to the owner why we were writing this check at all.
I think most collision repairers can see the benefits of cleaner air, but aren’t happy about more government intervention in their business. Plus, I think they wonder if this new rule is just another way to generate tax revenue through fines. I think the same thing when I observe the number of speeders pulled over on the interstate every day.
I think the other shops in my area are all in the same situation regarding the 6H Rule. Everyone is trying their best to get compliant, but they’re not 100 percent there yet.
So to coin a phrase I like to use, “Forewarned is forearmed.” Contact your state’s department of environmental management to make sure you’re compliant.
Bob Flanigan is body shop manager of O’Daniel Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/ Porsche/Audi in Ft. Wayne, Ind. He can be reached at email@example.com.