Education Needed to Prevent Lead Exposure at Worksites

April 12, 2000
A study finds that education is the best way to prevent worker lead exposure in the construction industry because of the constantly changing work environment.

Education is the key element to preventing worker lead exposure in the construction industry because the rapid and frequent changes in the work environment make identifying the threat a challenge, according to a study published in a special issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

The study, "Clinical Evaluation and Management of Lead-Exposed Construction Workers," says educational efforts should be undertaken whenever excessive lead absorption in an individual or group of workers is identified.

The study specifically reviews the adverse effects of lead and presents an approach to the diagnosis, management and prevention of lead-related illness.

Training is a requirement of the OSHA lead standard and is the responsibility of the employer, the study noted.

Out of the approximately 1 million construction workers in the United States exposed to lead, the majority work in commercial or residential renovation where lead-based paint exists, the article said.

This environment, unlike other industrial settings where lead exposure can occur, is marked by variable exposure conditions, even within the course of a single work day, the study said.

This variability of exposure conditions presents frequent opportunities for workers to ingest lead on the construction site.

Hand contamination is often common and workers frequently wipe their faces with lead-dusted hands in the course of a day's work, the article said.

Article author's Stephen M. Levin and Mark Goldberg recommend that an industrial assessment of the work site should be attempted, prompted by the identification of excessive exposure cases.

This can be done by working through the construction contractor and any consultant industrial hygienist employed on the project.

The authors also advise coordinating exposure control with worker representatives or unions to enlist their assistance in educating workers at risk of lead poisoning and to implement changes in work practices.

If attempts to correct identified exposure problems are not corrected, Levin and Goldberg suggest contacting public health agencies for help.

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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