News Release USDL: 96-457
Wednesday, October 30, 1996
Contact: Frank Kane, (202) 219-8151
OSHA, Lead Industries Announce Voluntary Industry
Initiative To Reduce Worker Exposures To Lead
Two industry organizations have voluntarily lowered lead
exposure limits, reducing health hazards to thousands of American
The voluntary lead industry initiative was jointly announced
today by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
and the Lead Industries Association, Inc. (LIA) and the Battery
Council International (BCI), the two organizations that developed
"Industry should better protect the health of its own
workers," said Robert B. Reich, secretary of labor. "This is
exactly the type of initiative and cooperation we want to foster
between OSHA and American business."
Representatives of 33 companies, the vast majority of
members of the two associations, have agreed to the program. The
companies have 20,000 workers in such industries as battery
manufacturing, lead smelting, lead chemicals, fabrication using
lead, and solder manufacturing. Lead poisoning can have
reproductive and neurological effects on workers.
Under OSHA's current lead standard, employers are required
to relocate a worker subject to exposure above the airborne
action level of 30 micrograms per cubic meter of air (30 ug/m3)
to an area of lower lead exposure when the worker's average blood
lead concentration is at or above 50 micrograms per 100 grams of
whole blood (50ug/100g). The primary objective of the new
program is to reduce this medical removal level from 50ug/100g to
40 ug/100g over the next five years.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and
Health Joseph A. Dear, who administers OSHA, said the program
responds to OSHA's efforts to find ways of improving worker
health through voluntary industry action.
"This initiative by the lead industry will contribute to
improving the health of exposed workers and to foster an
atmosphere of cooperation between the industry and OSHA. OSHA
supports its implementation," Dear said.
Robert J. Muth, chairman of the LIA and vice
president of ASARCO, Inc., said, "The program represents an
effort by the lead industry to take a leadership role in worker
protection in cooperation with OSHA."
"Within five years, we aim to have 100 percent of our
battery workers' blood lead levels below 40 ug/100g," said Graham
G. Spurling, president of BCI and president and CEO of GNB
Technologies. "The industry will aggressively pursue these
program objectives because our goal is not just to meet
regulations, but to go beyond what's required."
John Baranski, chairman of the BCI Health Committee and vice
president of Exide Corp., said, "The program will not be easy to
implement and will involve the need for additional resources from
the lead industry, including battery companies, but we feel the
extra margin of safety provided to employees will justify the
effort of those companies participating."
In addition to reducing the blood lead level triggering
worker relocation, the program would reduce the blood lead level
above which they may not be returned to work from 40 ug/100g (the
current standard) to 35 ug/100g over the five-year period.
The level for medical removal will be reduced at the rate of
2 ug/100g each year until the five-year target of 40 ug/100g is
reached and the level for return to work will be reduced by 1
ug/100g per year until the five-year target of 35 ug/100g is
The industry groups will give OSHA annual data indicating
the progress made by their members in achieving the target levels
set forth in the proposal. The plant-specific data will include
pre-proposal baseline data and annual blood lead data and zinc
protoporphyrin levels for each work position and work shift
monitored. It also will include the number of workers placed on
medical removal during the reporting period, the number returned
to work during the period, and a brief description of the lead
operations performed by reported workers.