Protect Yourself from Lead Dust

George Davis

Lead poisoning is a leading cause of workplace illness as well as a common hazard in the construction industry. Overexposure to the chemical is caused by the inhalation of lead dusts and fumes. This workplace issue is given high strategic priority by OSHA and is even included in the agency’s five year strategic plan wherein a performance goal of 15% reduction to lead exposure has been set. In a nutshell, the goal here is to reduce the average severity of lead exposure or employee blood lead levels in the industries and workplaces.

Lead exposure is also a major potential public health risk. Exposure usually takes place in demolition, salvage, removal, encapsulation, renovation and cleanup activities. Lead dust can also be carried around from work on clothing, skin, or hair. Preventive measures should therefore be taken to avoid overexposure to this harmful element. Here are some tips as provided to us by OSHA:

How to Avoid Lead Exposure:

  • Use proper personal protective equipment such as gloves, non-permeable clothing and approved respirators in the worksite.
  • Wash hands and face thoroughly after work and before eating.
  • Never enter eating areas still wearing protective equipment contaminated with lead.
  • Never wear outside of work clothes and shoes that were worn during periods of possible lead exposure.
  • Launder clothing daily and use proper cleaning methods.
  • Be alert to symptoms of lead exposure (e.g., severe abdominal pain, headaches, loss of motor coordination).

Use of Respirators:

  • Wear appropriate respirators as directed.
  • Conduct a user seal check each time a respirator is donned.
  • Be aware of your company’s respiratory protection program; understand the limitations and potential hazards of respirators.

Preventing further exposure:

  • Ensure adequate ventilation. (When outdoors, stand upwind of any plume.)
  • Whenever possible, use dust collecting equipment.
  • Use lead-free materials and chemicals.
  • Use wet methods to decrease dust.
  • Use local exhaust ventilation for enclosed work areas.

In your workplace, take the lead in preventing lead exposure. Be safe out there!

Check out OSHA’s Quick Tips for this month here or get our specialized safety meeting on lead here.

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