Working with lead can put your health at risk, causing symptoms including headaches, stomach pains and anaemia. Other serious health effects include kidney damage, nerve and brain damage and infertility.
The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW) place a duty on employers to prevent, or where this is not reasonably practicable, to control employee exposure to lead.
Action required by employers
Review work processes and workplaces for opportunities to reduce workers’ exposure to lead by reducing the number of people exposed, the amount of lead to which they are exposed and the length of time each worker is exposed.
- Ensure you are using the right controls
- Ensure the controls are always used when needed
- Show that control is being sustained - keep good records.
You should consult an appointed doctor about the medical surveillance which is appropriate for your work activities and workplace, if you are in doubt, seek expert help.
Personal decontamination and skin care:
- Provide disposable overalls or clean facilities for separate storage of clean and contaminated work clothing.
- Provide warm water, mild skin cleansers, and soft paper or fabric towels for drying. Avoid abrasive cleansers.
- Provide pre-work skin creams, which will make it easier to wash dirt from the skin, and after-work creams to replace skin oils.
Train and supervise workers to make sure they are doing the job in the right way and using controls properly to reduce their exposure. Include supervisors and managers in health and safety training. Make sure your workers understand:
- The hazards associated with working with lead
- How to use dust controls, and how to check that they are working
- How to maintain and clean equipment safely
- How to look after personal protective equipment (PPE)
- What to do if something goes wrong
- Use the controls provided
- Follow the correct work method
- Follow the rules on personal hygiene
- Turn up for medical surveillance
Action required by employees:
What should your workers do to protect their own health?
- Make sure they have all understood the information and training they need to work safely with lead.
- Use all the equipment provided by the employer and follow instructions for use.
- Make sure that equipment provided for your health and safety fits correctly and is in good condition.
Follow good and well-tested work practices, and especially:
- Keep your immediate work area as clean and tidy as possible;
- Clear up and get rid of any lead waste at the end of each day or shift, as directed by your employer;
- Do not take home any protective clothing or protective footwear for washing or cleaning.
- Wear any necessary protective clothing and respiratory protective equipment and return it at the end of the shift/day to the proper place provided by your employer.
- Report any damaged or defective equipment to your employer.
- Only eat and drink in designated areas that are free from lead contamination.
- Practise a high standard of personal hygiene, and especially:
- Wash your hands and face and scrub your nails before eating, drinking or smoking;
- Wash and change if necessary before you go home.
- Keep your medical appointments with the doctor to check lead blood levels.
If the amount of lead in your blood reaches the action level, your employer must investigate why this has happened and try to reduce it to below that level by:
- Reviewing the control measures and checking that they are working properly;
- Making sure that proper hygiene procedures are followed;
- Consulting relevant health professionals such as a doctor or occupational hygienist about any additional protective measures.