Making a Case for Environmental, Health & Safety Special Provisions

Many facility owners, particularly public agencies, have a standard specification for lead paint removal projects that has stood the test of time, and that likely went through a rigorous review process to get to the final version of the published document.  Whether it’s for a bridge or a water tank, the owner has likely used the standard specification for years with acceptable outcomes.   Now someone less close to the original document realizes and questions the absence of project specific requirements that are not addressed in the standard specification. Before you dismiss the idea of addressing project-specific requirements as a waste of time and money, consider a few reasons why project-specific revisions to the standard specification language might be a good thing. Standard specifications normally do a reasonably good job at relaying “general” contractual requirements, but are they providing the best blueprint for success on an individual project basis? Project-specific specifications (a.k.a., Special Provisions) enable: 1) site specific requirements to be implemented, 2) an opportunity to review the standard specifications for technical accuracy by a new “set of eyes,” and 3) the agency to acquire more accurate bids from contractors with less chance for project delays, processing of change order requests to account for site specific conditions, and the associated unbudgeted cost escalations.

Considering Project-Specific Modifications

Project specific revisions provide the opportunity to address unique scenarios not adequately addressed in the standard specification package. For example, does the standard specification address scenarios for projects where there is frequent public access to areas immediately adjacent to the work area, like bridges with toll booths or pedestrian sidewalks? If the toll booths will remain active and the sidewalks open to the public, will there be any project specific air monitoring requirements to account for these scenarios? 

Project specific revisions are ideal for providing additional detail when it comes to environmental concerns. The standard specification may limit visible emissions to 1% of the work day, but is this an appropriate level for projects involving lead paint removal over or near homes or parks?  Perhaps these situations would dictate disallowing visible emissions of any duration.  If there are potential public receptors within 500 feet of the work area, does the standard specification allow for the appropriate location and frequency of high volume ambient air monitoring stations? Or does the standard specification simply contain a generic statement like “perform ambient air monitoring?”

The standard specification may or may not address generic contractor qualifications, but for projects on non-traditional structures or with unordinary site conditions, are the generic qualifications adequate? Project specific revisions to the standard specification provide the opportunity to increase the contractor qualification requirements (i.e., Contractor must provide examples of projects completed on similar structures or with similar environmental considerations). Or perhaps the project warrants that the contractor be SSPC- QP 1 and QP2 certified as a bid requisite.

Importance of Technical Accuracy

A standard specification may be years or even decades old, which begs the question: ”Are you confident the contract documents reference current OSHA standards and SSPC guides, and does the standard specification correctly describe the requirements for addressing updated standards (since the last review and revision of the standard specification) such as newly enacted OSHA standards?”

OSHA has enacted new comprehensive health standards for confined space entry, beryllium, and silica exposures, and has revised the hazard communication standard, all within the past three years. Does the standard specification package reference the latest versions of these OSHA standards? SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings typically conducts a review of their standards and guidance documents on a five- year cycle – is the standard specification referencing the most current version of SSPC documents?  For example, SSPC Guide 6 and SSPC Technology Update No. 7 have both been updated within the past three years.

Acquiring More Accurate Bids

Special Provisions are used to define project-specific limitations (e.g., work hours, noise restrictions, shut downs/lane closures). The contractor’s bid for a project is undoubtedly affected by these limitations. Project Special Provisions are specifically designed to address the additional details not included in the Standard Specification, and are too important to be communicated as “Notes” on a set of drawings.

For example, how many standard specifications define containment requirements for lead paint removal from a lift span or drawbridge or swing span? Simply telling the contractor in the standard specification to design and erect an SSPC Class 1A containment system will more than likely result in a confusion, followed by lots of questions and ultimately the preparation of a set of addendums to the standard specifications. The standard specification may say to perform the work in accordance with the OSHA Confined Space standard, but does it identify which responsibilities will be layered down to the contractor and which will be handled by the Owner? For example, who will be responsible for providing rescue services, the owner or Contractor? Who will be responsible for completing the daily entry permit if the confined space is permit-required? What are the expectations if the project requires work over water? Will the specification require the contractor to notify the United States Coast Guard or will it require the contractor to obtain a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers? Or maybe the work involves paint removal over a railroad – will the Contractor be required to account for a flagger in their bid or require track access training for the painters prior to the start of the project? Project specific revisions to the standard specification package are designed specifically to address these types of scenarios, and in the end, create an opportunity for acquiring more accurate bids, as well as time and cost savings.


Project specific revisions to the standard specifications may cost a bit of time and money up front, but provides the specification writer the opportunity to review the existing contractual language for technical accuracy and to incorporate project-specific requirements. These elements should create even greater savings of time and money on the back end, generate more accurate bids, and provide the greatest opportunity for a successful project