Lead Awareness in Construction
For centuries Lead has been used for many purposes. However, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that a German scientist discovered that Lead was extremely toxic for humans. So, what is lead used in today? Luckily our federal government stepped up and in 1978 banned the use of Lead in residential paints and coatings. Prior to the ban on Lead-Based Paint several contractors loaded up on Lead-Based Paint as it was being sold for pennies on the dollar prior the ban taking place. A good rule of thumb is if your structure was built after 1990 then you shouldn’t have Lead coatings. If it was built before then you maybe at risk. Lead is still used for many industrial applications. Steel is often coated with Lead-Based coatings. Bridges, and the steel supporting overpasses is typically coated with Lead-Based Paint.
If you are working for a commercial contractor, you will often be warned of the presence of Lead before your job begins. That may not always be the case, so you need to understand what to look for. The number one item is to determine the age of the building. Anything prior to 1978 has a 25% chance there will be lead coatings somewhere in the building. Pay special attention when you are demolishing structures, old pipes, solder, and cable sheaths may contain lead. Metal items that are painted, as well as stained glass should be treated as if they contain lead. Especially, if you are unable to test them prior to beginning your task.
When you are working on houses, garages, our barn style structures in a residential setting the age of the building will also be the number factor to determine if there is lead. We recommend that you test any surface that you will disturb if the house is built prior to 1990.
Finally, you should always take environmental factors on your jobs seriously. If you allow you or your fellow workers to work unprotected around lead dust it will alter the course of their lives. Furthermore, studies have shown that the construction worker will bring that lead dust home and poison his or her family as well. Be sure to test for the presence of lead prior to be beginning work. If you find Lead, make sure you have a competent person to develop a plan to control the spread of the dust as well as be able to provide the personal protective equipment needed for the job.
Where have you run into Lead while working? How did you handle it? What types of precautions did you take?
To download a free pdf version of this safety meeting please click here.