QUESTION: Is there a limit to how many hours a person can work with lead in its metal state? 06 Dec 2006, New South Wales Australia
Just a question regarding lead in the work place. Is there a limit to how many hours a person can work with lead in its metal state. i.e using it for pipe joints etc.
If they are wearing safety gloves is it unsafe? And are there regulations for this
Any info would be much appreciated. Thank you
ANSWER: 06 Dec 2006
In NSW, the Consolidated OH&S Regulations require that the employer identify hazards and develop an appropriate hazard management plan which, in the case of lead, would normally include biological monitoring. It is then clear, if workers have blood lead tests before they begin a task and shortly after they start work, whether their blood lead level is rising and thus, whether the hazard management plan needs further controls. When lead metal is not being heated or being treated in any way to form lead fumes or dust, then normally the wearing of gloves is a sufficient protection - but this can easily be assessed by the blood lead monitoring. See "Part 7.6 Lead processes and lead risk work, EXTRACT from OHS Regulation 2001 With Margin Notes" at
I'm going to email you our most recent Info Pack on the dangers of a blood lead level above 2 micrograms per decilitre (2 µg/dL) because you could be forgiven for believing that the "removal" blood lead level (for removal of the worker from the lead task) used in NSW regulations - of 50 µg/dL - was safe. This level is based on the "Control Of Inorganic Lead At Work - National Standard For The Control Of Inorganic Lead At Work [NOHSC:1012(1994) - National Code Of Practice For The Control And Safe Use Of Inorganic Lead At Work [NOHSC:2015(1994)" and the national standard is now 7 years overdue for revision, even according to it's writers. Yet research since 1994 demonstrates 50 µg/dL is profoundly and definitely not safe!
Many companies have set a more stringent removal blood lead level (eg 30 µg/dL in Australia) and I would strongly recommend that your company do that also because I believe it is only a matter of time before regulations cease to discriminate against workers in this way. Since the World Health Organisation goal to have a blood lead level below 10 µg/dL applies to everyone, social justice would dictate that it also be the goal for workers, and thus a more appropriate removal level than 50 µg/dL.
I'd be interested to know how you go with all this information. Please stay in touch.
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