OSHA Lead in Construction Overview

Why does OSHA have regulations about lead?

  • Workers in the construction industry can inhale lead as dust, mist or flume. Lead can also enter the body through the digestive system if the lead is ingested (such as by eating or drinking on the job without proper hygiene to remove lead dust from hands or clothing).
  • Some of the lead will be absorbed by the body and stored in organs and tissues. Lead stored in tissues can cause irreversible damage.
  • In addition, families of workers can be poisoned by lead if workers take lead dust home from the construction site.
  • More information is available at Lead Poisoning Surveillance – Adults on the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) website.

What is OSHA’s Lead Standard for the Construction Industry?

  • The Standard (Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926.62) establishes the maximum limits for worker exposure to lead for all workers covered by the law and mandates worker protection programs.
  • Maximum limits of exposure to lead are established through a Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) and an Action Level (AL).
  • PEL sets the maximum worker exposure to lead (50 micrograms of lead per cubic meter of air (50g/m3) averaged over an 8 hour period). If employees are exposed to lead more than the PEL during an 8-hour workday, then the employer must reduce their exposure to lead to bring it under the PEL.
  • AL is an airborne concentration of lead (30g/m3) averaged over an 8 hour period. The AL is the level at which an employer must begin specific compliance activities outlined in the standard.

What types of construction are covered in the Lead Standard?

  • Demolition or salvage of structures where lead or materials containing lead are present
  • Removal or encapsulation of materials containing lead
  • New construction, alteration, repair, or renovation of structures substrates, or portions or materials containing lead
  • Installation of products containing lead
  • Lead contamination from emergency cleanup
  • Transportation, disposal, storage, or containment of lead or materials containing lead where construction activities are performed
  • Maintenance operations associated with these construction activities

For more information consult the OSHA booklet, Lead in Construction.

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