Evaluating Employee Exposure to Lead
Occupational exposure to lead can occur from inhalation of airborne particles containing lead and from contaminated skin, clothing, and surfaces. The following resources provide information on exposure assessment and analytical methods used to evaluate lead exposure. OSHA standards for general industry (1910.1025), shipyards (1915.1025), and construction (1926.62) require employers to assess potential employee exposure to lead.
OSHA has developed and validated methods for use by the Salt Lake Technical Center (SLTC) laboratory. The following method has been adopted by many laboratories for the analysis of chemical compounds. Exposures should be evaluated with standard total dust sampling techniques for comparison to the OSHA permissible exposure limits (PEL).
For additional information, see OSHA's Sampling and Analysis Safety and Health Topics Page.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Workers are primarily exposed to lead by breathing in particles containing lead. Lead compounds can also get on the skin, contaminate clothing or food, and be ingested (see the DOD video on the routes of exposure). The most effective way to prevent exposure to a hazardous material such as lead is through elimination or substitution with viable, less toxic alternatives. The hierarchy of controls describes the order that should be followed when choosing among exposure-control options for a hazardous substance. Generally, elimination or substitution is the preferred choice (most protective) at the top of the hierarchy, followed by engineering controls, administrative controls, work-practice controls, and, finally, personal protective equipment (PPE). Engineering controls include isolating the exposure source or using other engineering methods, such as local exhaust ventilation, to minimize exposure to lead. Administrative controls usually involve logistic or workforce actions such as limiting the amount of time a worker performs work involving potential exposure to lead. When exposure to lead hazards cannot be engineered completely out of normal operations or maintenance work, and when safe work practices and other forms of administrative controls cannot provide sufficient additional protection, a supplementary method of control is the use of protective clothing or equipment. This is collectively called personal protective equipment, or PPE. PPE may also be appropriate for controlling hazards while engineering and work practice controls are being installed. PPE includes wearing the proper respiratory protection and clothing. Good housekeeping practices to prevent surface contamination and hygiene facilities and practice to protect workers from ingesting and taking home lead are also necessary to prevent exposure to lead.
For additional information regarding controlling exposures to lead, see the following OSHA's Safety and Health Topics Pages on:
Resources for preventing lead exposure at outdoor and indoor firing ranges:
NIOSH workplace safety and health topics page on lead exposure at indoor firing ranges. Includes related NIOSH publications, peer reviewed publications, and NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluations.
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