Lead Exposure

Lead (pb) is a heavy metal that is poisonous. It can damage the nervous system, kidney, and joints as well as cause birth defects or mental retardation.

The most vulnerable workers to lead exposure are those involved in iron works, demolition work, painting (lead based painting), plumbing, heating and cooling maintenance, electrical work, carpentry, welding, cutting and sanding, or using powered tools without dust collection systems.

Lead can enter the human body through inhalation or injection. Lead dust, fumes, and mist can also be absorbed through the skin.

OSHA has specific lead standards for general industry, shipyards, and the construction industry. These standards require employers to assess exposure to lead and respond accordingly.

PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) according to OSHA:

(In µg/m3) = 400 divided by hours worked in a day.

  1. Protection:
  • Exposure below 30 µg/m3 of airborne lead (exterior demolition) – must follow general housekeeping rules, wash hands and face, and complete training.
  • Exposure above 30 µg/m3 and below 50 µg/m3 of airborne lead – must follow housekeeping rules, wash hands and face, and complete 2 hours of lead awareness training.
  • Exposure above 50 µg/m3 of airborne lead – must follow housekeeping rules, wash hands and face, and complete lead awareness training. Engineering controls, such as a HEPA vacuum, must be implemented. PPE, signs, and labels must be used, and decontamination facilities must be provided.