Lead work – take action now

On 1 October 2019, amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (OSH Regulations) will come into effect. The amendments lower the blood lead removal level thresholds for workers and changes the definition of ‘lead-risk job’.

Lead stays in the blood for several months. It is important to take action now to ensure that when the new laws come into effect the blood lead levels of workers do not exceed the allowable level.  When a worker’s blood lead levels exceed this the worker must be removed from lead-risk work.

What controls should be in place:

  • regular testing of local extraction ventilation systems
  • suitable facilities for hand washing and showering
  • provision of laundry facilities for lead worker’s clothes at the workplace;
  • vacuuming rather than sweeping lead dust
  • exclusion of eating, drinking and smoking from lead work areas
  • selection of personal protective equipment in consultation with workers for appropriate protection and comfort
  • training lead process workers, regarding the hazards of lead and how to reduce the risks associated with lead work and
  • providing lead risk workers with health surveillance, supervised by an appointed medical practitioner

Regulation 5.53: lead-risk job

Work carried out in a lead process that is likely to cause the blood level of a worker carrying out work to exceed:

  1. in the case of females of reproductive capacity:
    at least 20 micrograms per decilitre (μg/dL) before 1 October 2019
    after 1 October 2019  5 μg/dL
  2. in any other case, at least: 
    30 μg/dL before 1 October 2019  
    after 1 October 2019 - 20 μg/dL

Regulation 5.63(1)(a)

An employer must ensure that an employee is removed from a lead-risk job to a job that is not a lead-risk job, if the employee’s blood level is at or above:

  1. in the case of females of reproductive capacity, at least
    20 micrograms per decilitre (μg/dL)​ before 1 October 2019 
    after 1 October 2019 10 μg/dL
  2. in any other case
    50 μg/dL ​before 1 October 2019
    after 1 October 2019
     30 μg/dL

The requirement for women who are breast feeding or pregnant will remain the same, which requires them to be removed from lead risk work.

Further information:

20 Mar 2019

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