Get The Lead Out - Lead Exposure On Construction Sites Is A Serious Issue

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from the State Compensation Insurance Fund

Lead exposure on construction sites is a serious issue. Lead is dangerous when it’s airborne as dust, fumes, or a mist because workers can then breathe it, ingest it, or take it home and expose others. Employers of job sites that might contain lead are required by Cal/OSHA to conduct sampling tests to detect exposure and provide training to workers who may be exposed.

Construction activities that could expose workers to lead include renovating or demolishing structures with lead-painted surfaces; sandblasting, grinding, cutting, or torching metal structures painted with lead; welding, soldering, cutting or removing pipes, joints or ductwork containing or painted with lead; cutting or stripping lead-sheathed cable; and cleaning up sites where there’s lead dust.

Lead dust may not be visible so it can unknowingly get on a worker’s hands, face, and clothes. Adults who are lead poisoned may feel tired, irritable, or get aches and pains. They also can have serious health problems affecting the blood system, nervous system, kidneys or reproductive organs. The only way to know if a worker is exposed to lead is to have a doctor do a blood test for lead.

What Precautions Can Workers Take To Avoid Lead Exposure?

• Use safe work practices such as wetting down paints and coatings to keep dust out of the air.
• Change clothes and wash up before eating, drinking, or smoking. Eat, drink, and smoke only in clean areas.
• Use personal protective equipment like gloves, special clothing, and a respirator.
• Make sure the respirator fits and is worn and maintained properly.
• Change clothes and wash up before going home.

Lead dust on clothes or in the car could expose the family to lead. Children are more susceptible to lead than adults.

If a jobsite is a lead exposure risk, employers are required to conduct air sampling. Until actual exposures are determined, workers are required to wear approved respirators.

The detection of any amount of lead will trigger various Cal/OSHA requirements including engineering controls, proper housekeeping, hand and face washing facilities, additional worker training, respiratory protection, medical monitoring, and additional air sampling. The employer must also develop a written compliance plan.

For more information on lead and lead poisoning, see the Occupational Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (OLPPP) of the California Department of Public Health Services at gov/programs/olppp/Pages/default.aspx .