Safety Focus of the Week: Lead Paint Awareness (Revised)
Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause a variety of health problems, particularly in children. Lead paint on steel (old bridges, building steel, old structures) is our biggest potential exposure. Lead can enter our bodies through:
- Inhalation or ingestion of lead-contaminated dust from sand-blasting, sanding, scraping, drilling, or cutting with an abrasive blade or saw.
- Inhalation of fumes from torch cutting or welding lead-painted steel
The first step in preventing exposure is awareness. About 35-40% of steel structures are coated with lead paint. Surprisingly, even modern structures might contain lead paint.
Lead paint is not visually obvious. The best way to field verify if the paint is lead-free, is a simple test kit. Foremen involved in steel work and welders should have a kit. The Safety Department provide you with a kit and can help in this determination. In most cases, a specialty lead-abatement contractor will be required to remove the lead paint from surfaces that require welding, drilling, punching, cutting, chipping, scraping, sanding, etc.
If lead is identified, the following protocol should be followed:
- Notify the Safety Department and the Project Manager
- Address in Tailboard:
- Identify the presence of the lead in the specific items
- Explain the potential exposure routes
- Address PPE, mitigation to prevent exposure, any necessary exclusion zones, and housekeeping requirements
- Consider appropriate disposal options when applicable – with consultation from the Project Owner, the Safety Department, and the Project Manager.
The FHWA has a publication that addresses lead paint concerns on bridges and steel structures: