On March 3, 2023, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board published notice of proposed revised regulations pertaining to workplace exposure to lead for the general industry and construction safety orders.
In its Initial Statement of Reasons for the revisions, the Board indicates that the existing requirements are based on lead toxicity information and medical and epidemiological data that is now more than 40 years old and that more recent evidence demonstrates that low levels of lead exposure may have harmful health effects.
The proposed amendments to the regulations are designed to mitigate these harmful health issues from lower levels of exposure by maintaining employees’ blood lead levels below 10 µg/dl (micrograms per deciliter), whereas existing regulations were designed to maintain employees’ blood lead levels below 40 µg/dl, a level four times higher.
To achieve this reduction in exposure the revisions would:
- Reduce exposure to airborne lead
- Reduce exposure to lead through the oral route of exposures, and
- Expand requirements of blood lead testing of employees who work with lead, independent of measure levels of airborne lead.
The revisions lower the action levels under a time-weighted average for when protective measures are triggered. It also lowered the blood lead level requirement for when employees must be offered medical examinations and consultations at least annually. The revisions also lower the criteria for the temporary removal of an employee from work with lead due to elevated blood lead levels.
The Standards Board anticipates the revisions will reduce the number of employees exposed to harmful amounts of lead.
The 45-day public comment period will remain open until April 20, 2023. On April 20, Cal/OSHA will hold a public hearing on the revisions.
Interested stakeholders, such as employers in the construction industry, may submit written comments.
If you have questions about the proposed changes to Cal/OSHA lead exposure regulations or related workplace safety issues, please reach out to the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you often work or any member of our Workplace Safety and Health Team.