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USGBC releases ruling

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released its LEED Interpretation Ruling, which sets the standard for recycled content claims and documentation for LEED projects. The official LEED Interpretation Ruling deems national averages unacceptable for LEED documentation and is a step toward total product transparency and industry integrity.

The ruling addresses the issue of potential "greenwashing" by some manufacturers. The LEED Interpretation Ruling states: "An average recycled content claim, especially one that incorporates multiple product lines or places of manufacture, does not meet the credit intent and is not acceptable for LEED documentation." The ruling demands product- and plant-specific recycled content evaluation and documentation. It also states "recycled content claims must be specific to the installed product (and therefore place of manufacture); regional or national claims do not meet credit requirements."

USGBC's clarification provides a transparent, clear system for LEED project teams pursuing the recycled content credit. Recycled content documented on a plant and product basis allows the most sustainable products to be selected within LEED projects and fosters continual improvement in products and operations.

Radio frequency radiation poses health risks

There are a number of hazards involved with radio frequency (RF) radiation of which roofing workers should be aware, and injuries suffered by roofing workers exposed to RF radiation during the past year stress the importance of RF hazard awareness within the industry.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, microwave and RF radiation are forms of non-ionizing radiation, a series of energy waves composed of oscillating electric and magnetic fields moving at the speed of light. Antennae that produce RF radiation, such as those for cellular and personal communication service transmissions, number more than 600,000 in the U.S. and are located on building exteriors, including rooftops, water tanks and towers.

At sufficient intensities, microwave and RF radiation can damage human tissue. Many factors can negatively affect health, including the electromagnetic field strength or power density and an individual's body size and orientation with respect to the transmitter, among others. According to the Federal Communications Commission, heating of human tissue may occur at high RF radiation levels, which may result in tissue damage—referred to as thermal effects. At lower RF radiation levels, other nonthermal effects reported include immune system changes, neurological effects and behavioral changes, which can include sleep problems, mood changes, memory loss and other cognitive disorders.

The challenge for workers exposed to RF radiation is the surreptitious nature of the equipment that produces RF radiation. Many transmitters are hidden from plain view by fencing, shrouds used to conceal or blend the unit with the building fa├žade, or other design elements. In addition, signage may not be in place to indicate workers are in or near a dangerous area for RF exposure.

You should include identification of RF transmitting equipment in your job hazard analysis developed for each project. Control of RF exposure may require working with antennae operators to power down equipment and verify its safety before workers occupy exposure areas and work proceeds.

Professional Roofing has published articles alerting roofing contractors to the hazards involved with RF radiation. For the most recent article regarding RF radiation, see "The risks of radiation," October 2010 issue, page 34.

OSHA issues mold hazard fact sheet

As part of its ongoing effort to educate workers and employers about hazards associated with cleanup work in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a fact sheet highlighting the hazards and necessary safeguards to protect workers who may encounter mold during cleanup activities.

The fact sheet, "Mold Hazards during Hurricane Sandy Cleanup," provides background information regarding mold and why it is hazardous; the elements of a mold cleanup plan; and the use of appropriate engineering controls, work practices and personal protective equipment to protect workers during mold remediation.

"Mold Hazards during Hurricane Sandy Cleanup" is available at www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA-FS-3619.pdf.

IRS publishes shared responsibility document

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has published "Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act." The document discusses compliance information for employers with respect to the shared responsibility provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014. Also, on Jan. 2, the Treasury Department released a proposed regulation that will govern the ACA's employer requirements.

The ACA will require all employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to provide government-approved health care benefits to employees or pay a penalty to the IRS. Additionally, covered employers who provide health coverage may face penalties if the benefits are not deemed to be affordable as set forth by the law. You are advised to begin preparing now for compliance with the ACA to fully understand the new law's complex requirements. "Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act" is available at www.irs.gov.

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