We previously discussed several times that before you renovate or demolish a building, you need to test for asbestos. Asbestos, when disturbed, can release fibers that are small enough to lodge in our lungs and cause diseases like cancer and mesothelioma. But asbestos is not the only health hazard that needs to be considered during a renovation or demolition. Like asbestos, exposure to lead can cause chronic health problems, which is why both the EPA and OSHA regulate lead. While these regulations are similar and both aim to protect our health, each organization’s focus is slightly different.
The EPA regulates lead as a material that can negatively impact the general public. Some causes of lead exposure include lead in drinking water and in paint in homes. Our blog post Lead Poisoning 101 describes the health impacts of lead. However, you may be wondering, why would OSHA also regulate lead?
The purpose of OSHA regulations is to protect the health of workers, and workers have the potential to become exposed to lead. This can happen in several ways, including working in an industrial setting where lead is present and potentially released, participating in weapons training at firing ranges, and performing a renovation or demolition in an older building that contains lead-based paint. For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on how the OSHA Regulations for lead in construction, contained at 29 CFR 1926.62 , are applicable to renovation and demolition contractors.
OSHA’s lead regulations provide exposure limits for workers working in and around lead-based paint. When airborne concentrations exceed these exposure limits, additional controls need to be put in place such as increased ventilation, work practice controls or even the use of additional personal protective equipment like respirators. What this means is, before even starting a renovation or demolition project, the potential for lead exposure must be understood. Unfortunately, there is no direct correlation to the concentration of lead in paint and the airborne exposure during, for example, a teardown. In theory, any concentration of lead in paint greater than 0% could be released into the air, leading to worker exposure.
To protect workers during a renovation or demolition, hazardous material surveys performed ahead of time need to include an inspection for lead on painted and coated surfaces, and in particular, an assessment of the condition of the paint. Loose and peeling lead-based paint needs to be managed using lead-safe work practices by contractors licensed to perform work on lead. These workers must be monitored to evaluate their exposure. The smallest amount of lead could cause exposure, so performing baseline exposure monitoring whenever construction is occurring when lead is present in paint is necessary to ensure worker safety.
Tioga routinely performs hazardous material inspections prior to a demolition or renovation project. But did you know we can also monitor workers for lead during the abatement stage, just like we do for asbestos? Give us a call at 901-791-2432 to learn more.