Controlling the Risks of Lead in Roofing Work
The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW) require employers to prevent (or where this is not reasonably practicable, to control) their employees’ exposure to lead. This is because working with lead can lead to serious health risks, causing symptoms which include headaches, stomach pain and anaemia, at the very least. Lead can cause even more serious health issues, including kidney damage, nerve and brain damage, and infertility.
When lead, or items containing lead, are processed, worked with or recovered from scrap or waste, they may create lead dust, fumes or vapours. The body absorbs lead when lead dust, fumes or vapours are inhaled, or when lead is swallowed (for instance if one eats or drinks without washing the hands and face after handling lead). Any lead absorbed at work will circulate in the blood and can be stored in the bones for many years.
One of the industries in which workers are likely to come into contact with lead is the roofing industry because lead is used in so many applications, including flashing to flat roofs, gutters, downspouts, valleys and water hoppers. Employers are required to:
- Review their work processes and workplaces for opportunities to reduce workers’ exposure to lead by reducing the number of people exposed, the amount of lead to which they are exposed, and the length of time each worker is exposed.
- Ensure that you have the correct controls in place – check with industry good practice.
- Ensure that controls are always used when necessary.
- Keep all controls in good working order.
- Show that control is being sustained with good record keeping practices.
- Consult an appointed doctor about the medical surveillance that is appropriate for your workplace and work activities.
- Seek expert help when in doubt.
In addition to this, in order to ensure personal decontamination and skin care, an employer should provide the following:
- Clean facilities for separate storage of clean and contaminated work clothing.
- Warm water, mild skin cleansers, and soft paper or fabric towels for drying.
- Pre-work skin creams which will make it easier to wash dirt from the skin, and after-work creams to replace skin oils.
Workers who are likely to be exposed to lead should undergo training to ensure that they are using controls to reduce exposure correctly. Make sure that workers understand:
- The hazards associated with working with lead.
- How to use dust controls, and how to check that they are working correctly.
- How to use and maintain personal protective equipment (PPE).
- How to maintain and clean equipment safely.
- What to do when something goes wrong.
Employers, managers and supervisors should check employees to ensure that they follow correct work methods and use the controls provided, follow rules on personal hygiene, and attend for medical surveillance where necessary.