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An Overview of OSHA Lead Standards

Written By Iniesta Estable on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | 8:07 AM

Lead is a base metal with many uses. Lead is also a toxic substance, which can cause serious health problems. OSHA Lead Standards are aimed at protecting workers who may be exposed to lead by requiring workplace monitoring and employee training. The two standards, workplace monitoring and employee training, deal with different types of work environments. Yet each standard contains many similarities.

Both standards require employers to set up worker training programs covering the health effects and risks of lead exposure. Training must take place before employees can begin work. Periodic training refresher courses are also required. OSHA requires employers to setup a "Medical Surveillance Program" to help prevent lead poisoning. Employers must also maintain a written compliance program (the Exposure Control Plan) to document and describe the methods used to protect employees from lead exposure.

Although lead is common in everyday life, it can have serious health effects. When lead is absorbed into the body, in large amounts, exposure can be fatal. There are two types of overexposure that can occur from excessive amounts of lead: (1) Chronic refers to the presence of small amounts of lead which are continually absorbed and accumulated in the body, (2) Acute refers cases where large amounts of lead are absorbed in the body in a short period of time.

1. Lead can enter the body in two ways:
2. Inhalation. By breathing in dust or fumes.

Ingestion. By swallowing lead dust.

Once lead enters into the body and touches vital organs such as the stomach or lungs, it is absorbed into the bloodstream. While they do occur, incidences of exposure to deadly levels of lead in the workplace are highly unusual. Still, small amounts of lead can accumulate over time and can eventually produce serious health problems.

"Chronic overexposure" can damage the body through the urinary system, the reproductive system and the nervous system. Symptoms of chronic overexposure include headache, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, a metallic taste, insomnia, excessive tiredness, muscle/joint pain or soreness, constipation and colic.

"Acute overexposure" can cause fatigue, restlessness, headache, poor memory, vertigo, drowsiness, hallucinations, delirium, convulsions and coma. The most serious result of acute overexposure is Encephalopathy, which can cause death with as little as 48 hours after it produces seizures and eventually heart failure.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of lead overexposure should seek immediate medical attention.

OSHA Lead Standards are:

OSHA 29 CFR 1926.62 is OSHA's Interim Final Rule for Lead in Construction. It covers a number of activities, including, renovation and demolition involving lead-based materials and removal of lead-based paint.

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1025 covers the use of lead in general industry. It includes lead smelting, manufacturing and the use of lead-based pigments contained in inks, paints and other solvents in addition to the manufacturing and recycling of lead batteries.

Individual employers working in industries that commonly use lead based products or employers who are commonly exposed to environments where lead based products may be used, are required to comply with OSHA Lead Standards through the implementation of specific training and monitoring procedures.