MA Mortenson Partnership Implements Best Practice around Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Photos of the Battery RoomPhotos of the Battery Room

Photos of the Battery Room


On September 19, 2005, the Madison OSHA Office and the Wisconsin Consultation Program entered into an OSHA Strategic Partnership (OSP) with the MA Mortenson Company for the construction of a 57,000 square foot data center for the State of Wisconsin. The center was designed and built to store thousands of computerized databases for everything from hunting licenses to motor vehicle registrations to sex offender registries. Because of the sensitive nature of the computer systems, backup systems of 360 flooded lead-acid batteries were installed.

To meet the key Partnership's key goals of preventing work-related fatalities, controlling or eliminating serious workplace hazards, and establishing a foundation for the development of an effective safety and health management system, MA Mortenson Company and the site subcontractors evaluated workers' potential exposures to air contaminants–for both Mortenson workers and the subcontractors. While conducting a pre-job planning session with the electrical contractor, the site superintendent and electrical foreman discovered that installation of the batteries may cause potential exposures to lead. The scope of work involved one employee to clean and buff the lead connecting plates before other workers connected them to the battery terminals. The project's superintendent and company safety director consulted with the battery manufacturer to determine the potential risk of lead exposure. Appropriate precaution measures included wearing protective Tyvek clothing, using appropriate respirators, and pre-training in the hazards of lead exposure for all employees working in the battery room. Mortenson and Staff Electric agreed to have the Wisconsin Consultation Program conduct air monitoring for lead during the operation.

Success Impact:

The Consultation Program industrial hygienist conducted personal air monitoring of the individual who was cleaning the lead plates as well as any other employees involved in the various operations related to connecting the batteries.

When the Consultation program got back the results of the personal air monitoring, it was discovered that the individual cleaning/buffing the plates would have been exposed to 20 times the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for lead had the appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) not been used. Although the other workers would not have been overexposed, they also wore the same PPE as a precautionary measure. Due to the Partnership team's foresight and concise action, the electricians were protected from these lead exposures.

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Lead Exposure by Employee Location

Sampling Results for Battery Installation Operation

Sample Number


Time on/off

Lead Exposure (milligrams of lead per cubic meter of air, mg/m3)



7:09 AM - 11:29 AM



Connecting Battery Posts

7:07 AM - 11:31 AM



Cleaning and Greasing Copper Plates

7:09 AM - 11:23 AM



Cleaning Battery Posts and Attaching Plates

7:09 AM - 11:29 AM


The battery rooms were cordoned off from inadvertent entry by all other tradesmen on the jobsite during the cleaning and battery connection process. Approximately 35 electricians were working on the jobsite at this time.

Partnership Objectives:

The overall goal of the Partnership is to create a working relationship that focuses on preventing work-related fatalities, controlling or eliminating serious workplace hazards, and establishing a foundation for the development of an effective safety and health management system. Partners will strive to reduce serious injuries and illnesses and provide a safe and healthful work environment for employees at the State of Wisconsin Office/Data Center Facility Project by: increasing the number of safety and health programs and best practices implemented among subcontractors; and increasing the number of employees, employers and supervisors who have completed relevant safety training.

Origin: Region V, Madison, WI Area Office
Partners: MA Mortenson Company
Partnership Signed: September 2005
Industry: Construction (NAICS Code 238210 and 236220, SIC Code 1731 and 1542)
Employees: 35
Employers: 1
Source and Date: Lespe Ptak Madison, WI Area Office, Jupe Evans Chicago, IL Regional Office, Region V, November 2007