Complying with Lead in Construction

Employer engaged in manual demolition fined $20K by Labor and Industries for violations of the lead in construction standard.

H&S: #1-2011

Created: 09-06-2011

Updated: 09-06-2011

Stuff HappensScenario

Contractors Beware

Having the 8 hour RRP training is only half the requirement.

Not knowing the full extent of the Lead in Construction standards could cost your organization.

Contractors with an 8 hr. Renovation Repair and Painting (RRP) Certification for lead paint and engaged in lead ‘trigger tasks’ are still being cited by the Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries.

I’ll use manual demolition methods as the ‘trigger task” for purposes of this discussion

Because LNI has found detectable levels of lead on the painted surfaces being demolished and the contractor has not conducted an employee exposure assessment for lead as required by WAC 296-155-176zzz.

In fact the lead detection system used by students to test for lead in the 8 hr. RRP training don’t detect lead at lower levels (less than 2000).

Many contractors have been cited for lead paint of 1500 ppm, 500 ppm even as low as 10 ppm.

In each case the contractor had failed to perform an employee exposure assessment for lead.

Stuff Happens

Questions to askMissing Information

What you might not be aware of:

Laboratory analysis of large numbers of employee exposure assessments during manual demolition methods has shown insignificant employee exposure potential to airborne lead.

It is arguable that until the lead levels approach the HUD definition of lead-based paint (0.5 mg/cm2 or 5,000 ppm), there may be little significant exposure potential to lead during manual demolition of lead containing painted structures.
Federal OSHA and Labor & Industries are chasing clean air when the real hazard to lead on the jobsite is often driven by personal hygiene practices.  Are workers eating, smoking or other wise engaged in poor hygiene practices?

In fact some contractors have figured out that the air monitoring for lead often provides a false sense of security. 


If you sample paint before manual demolition and find that you have lead containing paint you are required to perform a personal exposure assessment.  If little or no lead is found then you have created a negative exposure assessment for other work closely resembling that job i.e. similar lead concentrations, same work practices, level of employee training and similar controls (wet methods/ HEPA vacuuming).
It is this negative exposure assessment that leads to a false sense of security.

If poor personal hygiene is allowed to be practiced on the jobsite then workers can be exposed to lead that only a blood lead analysis will detect.

Some contractors are taking it upon themselves to conduct pre-job blood leads and post-job blood leads because it is the only way to demonstrate that employees are not picking up lead during the course of the project.

Questions to ask

Applicable Regulations and Requirements

WAC 296-155-176zzz.

checkmarkCourse of Action

What is the answer? 

Because LNI has issued citations for lead bulk samples at such low levels only a qualified laboratory ananlysis can achieve detection levels this low. 

Remember that until August of 2009 consumer paint was allowed to have up to 600 ppm of lead.  After this August 2009 the level was lowered to 90 ppm.

OSHA has written that “…no bulk sample analysis of lead is a indictor of potential employee exposure…”  Now we all know that this is categorically inaccurate when referencing manual demolition methods.  Laboratory analyses for lead vary in sensitivity from a lower limit of detection of ~ 50 ppm to lower limit of detection of less than 10 ppm. 

LNI has been informed that significant data exists demonstrating no significant employee exposure potential to airborne lead during manual demolition until the lead coating approaches the HUD criteria of 5,000 ppm.

How can the Close Group help?

Cover your bases:


Hear from the expert
Mark Close, MS, CIH Mark Close

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