The effects of lead
- Lead has long been known to be a poison (toxic).
- Uncontrolled exposure can cause headaches, tiredness, irritability, nausea, etc.
- Continued exposure could cause damage to kidneys, nerves and the brain.
- Female operatives of child-bearing age should be particularly protected from uncontrolled exposure to lead.
- Handling clean sheet lead is regarded at low risk; it is generally when lead is heated, cut or abraded or becomes old and powdery that the risks to health increase.
Control of exposure
- Employers have a legal duty to prevent or control exposure to lead of anyone who may be affected by their operations.
- Lead can enter the body by inhalation, ingestion or skin contact.
- If working with lead, your employer must inform you of the risk to your health and the control measures to be applied. Usually this in the form of a COSHH risk assessment, make sure you read the assessment before you start working with lead.
- You may have to wear RPE to protect against lead fumes, vapour or dust.
- After working with lead, wash contaminated skin before eating or drinking.
- Never eat, drink or smoke in areas which work with lead is being carried out.
- If you work with lead, you may have to have your blood or urine tested periodically to determine your exposure.
Sources of exposure
- High temperature processes such as smelting, burning or welding.
- Demolition or restoration work involving old lead or lead-painted structures.
- Cutting of lead with disc cutters.
- Burning off old lead-based paints.
- Spray painting with lead-based paints.
- Work where lead is heated to lower temperature (such as plumbing and soldering) and work involving handling clean sheet lead are regarded as lower risk activities, but still may require control measures to be put into place.
Check the method statement before work commences and always speak to your supervisor if you have any concerns regarding working with lead.