biological monitoring
13th October 2016

Lead poisoning is a potential hazard in industries which use lead-based chemicals, or where breathing in lead dust or fumes is possible. Exposure to lead has been linked to cardiovascular problems, fertility issues, nerve disorder and decreased kidney function. Companies are required by the HSE to monitor lead levels and maintain a health register for everyone engaged in potentially hazardous processes where exposure and risk is deemed to be significant, including:

  • Exposure exceeds half the occupational exposure limit (there is a time weighted average for lead of 0.15mg/m3, 0.10mg/m3 for lead alkyls)
  • Substantial risk of ingesting lead
  • Skin contact with lead alkyls or lead napthenate

As a specialist consultancy providing support and guidance for occupational health, occupational hygiene and health and safety we’ve put together our top five tips for companies that work with lead.

  1. Risk Assessment – You should undertake a risk assessment for all work which could involve exposure to lead. This should detail your activities, risks, control measures and identify all employees who might be at risk, including those who’ve been identified as requiring medical surveillance. It’s important not to overlook other risks which are also associated with the activity, including noise, vibration or working at height
  1. Air monitoring – Personal sampling programmes should be undertaken at least once every 12 months. In higher risk areas this may be increased to 3 monthly sampling programmes. Breathing zone sampling should be undertaken every three months unless your workplace is unchanged with two previous sampling programmes showing exposure less than 0.10mg/m3. In these cases annual testing will be permitted. You will need to keep records of the monitoring programmes for at least 5 years, as directed by your HSE appointed doctor
  1. Medical surveillance and biological monitoring – Medical surveillance is required for all employees who are exposed above the time weighted average (TWA) for inorganic lead of 0.15mg/m3 or 0.10mg/m3 for lead alkyls. These medicals need to be undertaken by our HSE appointed doctor within 14 days of exposure for all new starters, and annually thereafter. Blood or urine testing will be required for employees who were identified as at risk during the risk assessment process; these will then be reviewed by the appointed doctor and appropriate action taken based on the results.
  1. Training and awareness – Employees who are likely to be exposed to lead should undertake specific training to help them identify the risks to their health, control measures and precautions which have been put in place to control the risks, the importance of personal hygiene and the sampling programmes for lead in air monitoring.
  1. Remember it’s the LAW. If you are unsure of your obligations seek competent advice!!

If you need advice on this topic, call us today on 0845 862 8040


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