Preventing Lead Exposure: What OSHA Requires

OSHA requires employers to take specific precautions to protect workers from lead poisoning. From hygiene to housekeeping and medical surveillance to PPE, employers must be prepared to prevent exposures.

Because the consequences of occupational lead poisoning can be so serious, OSHA requires strict protective measures in its general industry lead standard (29 CFR 1910.1025).

If there is any reason to believe that workers might be exposed to lead, you are required to monitor lead levels in the air, without taking respirators into account.

Currently, the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for lead is set by OSHA at 50 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour workday.
The standard also establishes an action level of 30 micrograms per cubic meter of air, time weighted average, based on an 8-hour workday. The action level initiates several requirements of the standard, such as exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and employee training.

Employee medical exams are required:

  • On assignment to work areas with lead at or above the action level

  • When blood lead levels are 40 or more micrograms per 100 grams of whole blood

  • Upon experiencing symptoms associated with lead exposure

  • Upon experiencing breathing trouble during a respirator fit test

  • On request for advice on lead exposure and childbearing

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Protective Measures

When employees are exposed to lead on the job, protective measures are required. For example, you must make sure:

  • Employees are trained to recognize hazards and take proper precautions to prevent exposures.

  • Warning signs are posted in lead work areas.

  • Ventilation is installed and tested every 3 months.

  • Job rotation is implemented.

  • Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including respirators, is provided.

  • Contaminated PPE and work clothes are removed only in assigned changing rooms.

  • Work and street clothing are stored separately.

  • Food, beverages, cosmetics, etc. are prohibited in work areas.

  • Workers vacuum lead dust from clothing and wash before going to the lunchroom.
  • Workers shower at the end of their shift.

  • Floors and work surfaces in lead work areas are cleaned with vacuums with HEPA filters.

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Ready-Made Checklists

Whether your employees are exposed to lead or other safety and health hazards on the job, you have to be sure you’re doing all you need to do to keep them safe and protect their health. One of the best ways to ensure safety and health compliance is with checklists like the ones you’ll find in BLR’s Safety Audit Checklists.

For example, in the section on preventing lead exposure, Safety Audit Checklists provides a 34-point compliance checklist highlighting key provisions of OSHA’s lead standard and a second checklist with important lead safety information that can be circulated to supervisors and posted for employees.

All told, this best-selling program provides you with more than 300 separate safety checklists keyed to three main criteria:

  • OSHA compliance checklists, built right from the government standards in such key areas as HazCom, lockout/tagout, electrical safety, and many more.

  • "Plaintiff attorney" checklists, built around those non-OSHA issues that often attract lawsuits.

  • Safety management checklists that monitor the administrative procedures you need to have for topics such as OSHA 300 Log maintenance, training program scheduling and recording, and OSHA-required employee notifications. 

Make as many copies as you need for all your supervisors and managers, and distribute. What’s more, the entire program is updated annually. And the cost averages only about $1 per checklist.

If this method of ensuring a safer, more OSHA-compliant workplace interests you, we’ll be happy to make Safety Audit Checklists available for a no-cost, no-obligation, 30-day evaluation in your office. Just let us know, and we’ll be pleased to arrange it.

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