Working with Lead

Keeping the workforce happy, healthy & safe

Working with lead can cause harm to your health. The Control of Lead at Work Regulations state that an employer must monitor all employees exposed to lead in the workplace.

Workers most at risk are performing the following tasks

  • Blast removal, burning or stripping of old lead paint
  • Hot cutting in demolition and dismantling operations, removing lead form scrapped items
  • Lead acid battery manufacture, breaking and recycling lead containing products including cabling
  • Any painting or spraying using a lead-based paint
  • Soldering with lead-based solder
  • Lead smelting, refining, casting
  • Manufacturing and packing lead products, leaded glass, pigments containing lead

Lead can enter the body in the following ways

  • Breathing in dust fumes and vapour
  • Swallowing any lead products if you eat, drink or smoke without washing your hands and face.

Lead can affect almost every system in the body and symptoms include

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, constipation, nausea, abdominal pains, weight loss
  • Anaemia

When the exposure is prolonged, lead can cause significant health issues

  • Nerve and brain damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Infertility

In the workplace each employee must be protected from lead exposure by minimising the exposure as much as possible; this includes systems to control levels such as extractor fans, ensuring employees can wash hands and eat and drink in a safe environment, wear protective equipment if required, be trained in processes to minimise exposure and also potential health issues.

The employer has a legal duty to ensure employees working with lead are under medical surveillance by a doctor appointed by the HSE. Dr Heffer is a HSE appointed Doctor for Lead; the purpose of statutory medical surveillance is for the appointed doctor to monitor employees for early signs of potential health problems caused by the work they are doing and provide them with advice on whether further exposure to lead is appropriate.

Employees should have an initial medical assessment before starting work with lead or at least within 14 working days of that date. After this, there should be periodic medical assessments that consist of a clinical assessment at least once a year and measurement of blood lead concentrations – the frequency of blood lead tests will be at the discretion of the appointed doctor but the intervals between periodic medical assessments should not exceed 12 months.

There are different lead levels for women of childbearing age and young people under 18years of age. If a woman becomes pregnant, she should not work in areas of high lead exposure.

If you would like further information or advice on our services, please contact us.

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Workplace Wellness is the trading name of Bradford on Avon Occupational Health Services Ltd.
Registered in England: 9749251
VAT no. 27144823278
Registered Office: 29 Bridge Street Bradford on Avon Wiltshire BA15 1BY

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