Lead Paint Awareness for Program of Works

Guest Article by Bryan Osborn, Director of Training at Acorn Services in conjunction with Martin Abraham, Operations Director at Simulcra Ltd.

Lead Paint AwarenessAre you initiating a new program of works? Where work is proposed and it will disturb paintwork, then you, employers and all workers on site must comply with The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW).

If the construction work undertaken is with a pre-1970 building be that demolition, refurbishment, maintenance, simple retro fitting or building repair the exposure risks of lead paint will be high.  It may be disturbing old paint beneath that has never been stripped properly.  Any disturbing of paintwork in existing buildings can create lead exposure risks. Where dust, fumes or vapour is produced by burning old lead paint in the process of demolition and dismantling, recycling of any materials containing lead - workers will be at risk.  Lead is not absorbed through the skin, but enters the body through the inhalation of dust, fumes or vapours. It can be ingested if you eat, smoke or bite your nails having been exposed to dust containing lead. Poor personal hygiene may increase the risk of exposure to lead poisoning.

Symptoms indicating lead exposure include headaches, tiredness, irritability, constipation, nausea, stomach pains and anaemia. Continued uncontrolled exposure can cause damage to nerve and brain, kidneys and cause infertility. Unfortunately lead is a cumulative toxin and the human body cannot readily rid itself of it. Lead is stored in our teeth and bones. Blood tests indicate recent exposure to lead i.e. over the past few months but cannot necessarily be relied on to give a historic picture of lead exposure.

Pregnant women and young children are at a higher risk of the effects of lead exposure. Pregnant women with lead in the body can transmit lead through the blood to the baby she is carrying. If this occurs, it can have serious effects on the child's development. If you are pregnant it is very important to keep the amount of lead in your body to a minimum possible. Doctors automatically support and certify to ensure women do not work in areas of exposure to lead in the interest of the baby. Environments used by young children like common playgrounds may require testing and if recorded as containing risk, made void.

All developers and employers have fresh responsibility under Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015 that includes complying with CLAW. Where repairs maintenance and refurbishment are to be carried out, lead testing or more extended lead surveys should be completed before work starts. Results of the lead survey should be used as empirical data for supporting risk analysis and safe working practices.

Contractors need to be familiar with lead-safe working methods and best practice and include 'suitable and sufficient' risk assessments for sites. Providing training and information about lead exposure risks, which includes exposure risks to third parties such as residents and employees is a CLAW requirement. Raising awareness to the dangers of Lead, Testing for Lead and establishing transparent safe standards and accreditation for the industry needs to be our joint responsibility and objective.

Some Codes of Practice and Guidance can be found on the HSE web site Control of Lead at Work L132 and CDM Guidance L153

Written by: Bryan Osborn, Director of Training at Acorn Services in conjunction with Martin Abraham, Operations Director at Simulcra Ltd.