Lead aware in the workplace

Information for industry and trades people in Port Pirie

In Port Pirie many workers, across a variety of trades, are at risk of exposure to lead dust and fumes due to lead contamination in buildings and the environment. Such exposure can result in an increased absorption of lead in the body. Lead enters the body by absorption through the lungs and stomach and is transported around the body in the blood stream. In a healthy adult much of this lead is excreted, however some may be deposited in body tissue and bones. 

An increased absorption of lead can affect your blood making, renal and nervous systems. Prolonged excessive absorption of lead may result in adverse health effects such as headaches, tiredness, constipation and weight loss.

Know your blood lead level

A blood lead test is a simple finger prick and will tell you your blood lead level.

Workers should have a blood lead test:

  • before starting the contract
  • during the contract (depending on length of contract)
  • at the end of the contract.

Contact the Environmental Health Centre for a free blood test.

Keep your blood lead level to a minimum

  • wash and dry your hands before eating and drinking
  • don't smoke whilst working
  • no eating or drinking on site
  • use protective clothing and equipment including masks and respirators (P2 dust and fume rated)
  • eat regular meals and a healthy diet high in calcium and iron (empty stomachs aid lead absorption).

Use lead safe practices

Use work practices that minimise the spread of airborne dust. This includes:

  • Using water to suppress dust contamination by dampening down areas and surfaces.
  • Seal work area off using plastic and tape. Cover floors, doors, windows and openings to contain dust in work area.
  • Wear protective clothing including overalls, gloves and work boots.
  • Wear protective equipment, face masks or respirators (P2 dust and fume)
  • Trucks should have good seals and air-conditioned cabins.
  • Loads should always be covered.
  • All windows on vehicles should be closed at all times.
  • Use a clean area for eating and drinking away from the work site.
  • Discourage family visits to work sites.

Remember time taken to prepare the work area will prevent other parts of the building being contaminated and make clean-up easier.

Plan, be aware, protect and clean-up

Reduce take home lead

Young children absorb 50% of the lead that they are exposed to whereas adults absorb 10%. Young children are further at risk due to their hand to mouth activities.

To avoid putting your family at risk:

  • don't take home items, equipment or vehicles used at work sites
  • use washing and showering facilities if available at work site
  • make sure you have showered and washed your hair before interacting with children and pregnant women
  • once clean don't do activities which may re-contaminate you and your clothes
  • don't go home for lunch in work clothing
  • store and wash work clothes separately from family clothes
  • don't have baby/child car seats or any baby/child equipment in work vehicles.

Cleaning includes not only the removal of visible debris but also the removal of lead dust particles which are too small to be seen by the naked eye.

Further information

For further information on lead safe practices, contact the Environmental Health Centre or SA Health's Scientific Services on (08) 8226 7100. Additional information on reducing your exposure to lead is also available on the following pages: