OSHA Lead Standards for General Industry and Construction - Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) – Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal

UPDATE: OSHA has approved a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal ANPRM as requested by various stakeholders. The new closing date for the public comment period is October 29, 2022.

News Release: US Department of Labor begins rulemaking process to revise standards for occupational exposure to lead

On June 28, 2022, OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal in the Federal Register. With this publication, OSHA is initiating a rulemaking process to consider updates to the Lead standards for general industry (applicable also to maritime) and construction. OSHA published this ANPRM to solicit input from the public on how the current OSHA Lead standards for general industry and construction could be modified to reduce worker blood lead levels (BLLs) and more effectively prevent adverse health effects in workers exposed to lead. The publication of this ANPRM has no impact on OSHA's current enforcement policies related to its Lead standards.

The publication of the ANPRM initiates a public comment period allowing OSHA to gather information, diverse perspectives and technical expertise on areas that it might consider when updating the Lead standards. The ANPRM focuses primarily on BLL triggers for medical removal protection and medical surveillance provisions, including triggers for and frequency of blood lead monitoring. However, OSHA is also requesting input on other aspects of the Lead standards and potential regulatory alternatives.  The ANPRM seeks input on the permissible exposure limit and several safe harbor protocols that employers in certain industries, or who meet specified requirements, could opt to use as alternatives to complying with the main rule. The ANPRM also seeks input on the ancillary provisions for personal protective equipment, housekeeping, hygiene, and training as well as employers’ current practices that address workplace lead exposure and associated costs. The ANPRM reviews updates that Michigan, Washington State and California State Plans have implemented or proposed for their occupational lead rules and asks for comment on whether OSHA should consider similar revisions to 29 CFR 1910.1025 and 29 CFR 1926.62.

How to Participate

OSHA encourages members of the public to review and submit comments on the ANPRM during the public comment period, which closes on October 29, 2022. The ANPRM is available on the Federal Register web page and at www.regulations.gov, which is the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Comments should be submitted at www.regulations.gov, refer to Docket No. OSHA-2018-0004, and be submitted by October 29, 2022.

Background

General

Employers are required to protect workers from inorganic lead exposure under specific OSHA Lead standards covering general industry/maritime and construction. The OSHA Lead standard for general industry and maritime (29 CFR 1910.1025) was promulgated in 1978 and the Lead standard for construction (29 CFR 1926.62) was established in 1993. Since that time, extensive medical research has emerged indicating that adverse health effects can occur in adults with lower BLLs than previously recognized and at levels well below the medical removal level (≥ 60 µg/dL in general industry, ≥ 50 µg/dL in construction) and return-to-work status level (< 40 µg/dL) specified in the Lead standards. Exposure to lead is associated with adverse health effects, including but not limited to effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular, neurological, respiratory, and immune systems.

Who might be exposed to lead in the workplace

Workers are exposed to lead as a result of the production, use, maintenance, recycling, and disposal of lead material and products. Lead exposure occurs in most industry sectors including construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation, remediation and even recreation. Construction workers are exposed to lead during the removal, renovation, or demolition of structures painted with lead pigments. Workers may also be exposed during installation, maintenance, or demolition of lead pipes and fittings, lead linings in tanks and radiation protection, leaded glass, work involving soldering, and other work involving lead metal or lead alloys. In general industry, workers come into contact with lead in items and materials such as solder, plumbing fixtures, rechargeable batteries, lead bullets, leaded glass, brass, or bronze objects, and radiators. Lead exposure can occur not only in the production of these items but also in their use (e.g., firing ranges), repair (e.g., radiator repair), and recycling (e.g., lead-acid battery recycling). For a list of jobs with potential sources of lead exposure, see: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/lead/jobs.html.