OCCUSAFE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE
Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Lead in Construction
Lead is a poisonous metal that is found in both construction and general industry work. OSHA regulates construction activities where workers may be exposed to lead under standard 1926.62. Of particular concern is the removal of lead paint or the demolition of structures containing lead paint. For many years, it was a component of most paints due to its rust inhibiting qualities. Because of its toxic effects, especially to children, lead is no longer used in paints in residences and most other paints manufactured or sold in the USA. In some cases, it continues to be used on some bridges, railways and ships. Construction workers may also be exposed where existing lead is disturbed, in the transportation of lead containing materials from cleanup or demolition work, and related maintenance activities.
Other construction activities that may also expose workers include: abrasive blasting, welding, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, maintenance and repair, electrical work, and carpentry, renovation, and remodeling work. Plumbers, welders, and painters are among those workers most exposed to lead.
There is a large number of common symptoms of overexposure to lead. These may include loss of appetite, metallic taste in the mouth, anxiety, constipation, nausea, pallor, excessive tiredness, weakness, insomnia, headache, nervous irritability, muscle and joint pain, fine tremors, numbness, dizziness, hyperactivity and colic. Chronic exposure may result in damage to blood-forming, nervous, urinary, and reproductive systems. Very high levels can cause brain damage and death.
Construction contractors should survey all activities where workers are potentially exposed to lead and conduct personal air monitoring to determine the level of exposure. If results exceed the OSHA standard, engineering controls, medical monitoring, personal protective equipment, and other requirements cited in the standard should be implemented. Lead can present a significant health risk to workers. Employers in construction should take that risk seriously and implement effective controls to protect their workers.
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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