Does your company have a lead exposure safety plan in place? If not, it should. While everyone knows that lead exposure is dangerous and poses many health risks, many companies still do not have a plan in place to prevent overexposure to lead. This is a huge problem since without such a plan, companies risk the health of their employees and leave themselves open to potential lawsuits.
It is essential that employees are protected from lead on a daily basis since lead is dangerous whether exposure takes place over a short period of time or over the course of several years. In fact, lead poisoning from brief, occupational exposure can lead to death and long term exposure can cause critical damage to many bodily systems including the nervous, urinary, and reproductive systems.
There are a few industries where a lead exposure safety plan is especially vital because exposure to lead is more likely than in other industries. These include the shipyard and construction industries.
As is the case with almost all health hazards, the most effective way to protect against lead exposure in the workplace is to ensure that it does not occur in the first place. The following measures will help to keep the workplace safe from exposure to high lead levels:
- Engineering controls that include material substitution, isolation, and effective ventilation
- Sound work practices and training that includes good housekeeping, personal hygiene habits, and inspection and maintenance of equipment
- Protective clothing and equipment when working with lead, including respirators when in the presence of lead
- A medical program supervised by a licensed physician who is familiar with lead exposure
- Air sampling that is conducted when lead exposure may have occurred as well as general periodic air testing
While it is unlikely that any employer would purposely expose their employees to high lead levels, many of these same employers do not have a formal written plan in place because they simply do not know where to begin. This is not an excuse, however, and these employers should remember that most states have adopted lead safety standards that are in keeping with Federal OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards while others have slightly different standards or enforcement programs.
In cases where employers simply do not know how to begin drafting a lead exposure safety plan, it is in their best interest to hire a safety consulting firm to draft and implement such a plan. This will ensure that the employer is in full compliance with lead safety standards and that their employees are trained and know how to handle any real or potential exposure to lead. And this will keep everyone protected no matter what type of situation arises.