Working with lead should be avoided if possible. Where a task involving working with lead is identified (e.g. removing lead-based paint), Health, Wellbeing and Safety shall be contacted for advice regarding exposure safeguards and Worksafe Notifications.
Lead is a poison that can be absorbed into the body through exposure to pure lead, lead alloys such as solder or brass and inorganic lead compounds such as lead oxide.
It can be inhaled through dust, fumes or mist. It can also be swallowed when, for example, your hands come into contact with lead (such as through contaminated clothing in the work environment) and then you eat, drink or smoke.
Lead can cause both immediate and long-term health problems. High levels of lead in your body can cause headaches, tiredness, irritability, nausea, stomach pains and anaemia. Continued exposure can cause far more serious symptoms, such as kidney damage, nerve and brain damage, paralysis, lead palsy and even death.
Lead exposure may also adversely affect the reproductive systems in both women and men. A developing unborn child is particularly at risk, especially in the early weeks before a pregnancy becomes known.
The Worksafe website provides more information on lead and the controls required if there is lead exposure.
Other heavy metals, such as Cadmium, Arsenic, Chromium and Mercury, can also be hazardous. The following information should be reviewed if there is exposure to heavy metals:
- SafeWork Australia: Cadmium Health Monitoring
- Government of Western Australia: Risk-based health surveillance and biological monitoring