There is general and specific legislation for a lead process in workplaces, including by inhalation, ingestion and absorption. The general duties and regulations that require employers to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment. In addition to general duties, specific duties include:
- Section 22 (1) (b) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 requires that the employer to monitor conditions at the workplace, in particular regulatory requirements for health monitoring for lead risk work.
- Regulation 165 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 requires that the employer ensure that the exposure standard is not exceeded.
- Regulation 166 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 requires that the employer carry out atmospheric monitoring if there is uncertainty as to whether the exposure standard may be exceeded and when it is necessary to determine whether there is a risk.
- Regulation 186 (1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 requires that the employer ensure that an employee is not exposed to an airborne concentration of lead dust, lead mist or lead fumes in the employee’s breathing zone at a workplace that exceeds 0·15 mg/m3 measured as a TWA.
- Regulation 186 (2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 requires that the employer must monitor the airborne concentration of lead dust, lead mist or lead fumes at the employer’s workplace if there is uncertainty as to whether the lead exposure standard is or may be exceeded
- Regulation 198 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 requires that the employer must arrange for biological monitoring of all employees engaged in lead-risk work at 6 months and at more regular intervals if elevated blood leads are recorded.
Exposure standards represents the airborne concentration of a substance or mixture that must not be exceeded. The exposure standard can be of three forms:
- 8-hour Time-weighted average (TWA) means the average airborne concentration of a particular substance when calculated over an eight-hour working day, for a five-day working week.
- Peak limitation (PEAK) means a maximum or peak airborne concentration of a particular substance determined over the shortest analytically practicable period of time which does not exceed 15 minutes.
- Short term exposure limit (STEL) means the airborne concentration of a particular substance calculated as a time-weighted average over 15 minutes.
The exposure standard for atmospheric contaminants in the occupational environment for has an 8-hr TWA exposure standard of 0.15mg/m³ for lead, inorganic dust and fume (Pb). No STEL is indicated.
The Victorian health and safety regulations require that for identification of lead risk jobs, the employer must take into consideration whether the airborne lead level is greater than half the exposure standard.
The National Exposure standards are guides to be used in the control of occupational health hazards. They should not be used as fine dividing lines between safe and dangerous concentrations of chemicals. They are not a measure of relative toxicity and should not be applied in the control of community air pollution. Interpretation of the exposure standards should be undertaken by an appropriately qualified and experienced person.