New workplace regulations relating to the use of lead in the workplace come into effect in New South Wales today, and WorkSafe has released new guidelines to replace the former code of practice.
The guidelines provide examples and definitions to assist workplaces in safely managing the risks of lead in the workplace, as well as information as to workplaces’ legal responsibilities for employees and employers alike, as well as obligations for health monitoring of workers. The health monitoring portion also includes assistance for employers relating to the process of monitoring blood levels of workers who undertake work that is considered high-risk, in relation to lead.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety, Julie Nielsen has explained that all workplaces who deal with lead in the workplace need to review their procedures and safety practises, ensuring compliance with the new legislation.
“Exposure to lead in the workplace is a serious health and safety risk that can cause a range of illnesses including cancer, kidney damage, nerve and brain damage, paralysis, reduced fertility, and birth defects in children,” Ms Nielsen said.
“The industry has had time to prepare for these changes, so there will be no excuse for employers who are caught ignoring their legal duties and putting their workers at risk of lead poisoning.”
Legal responsibilities for employers operating in lead-risk work areas include notifying WorkSafe that lead-risk work is being undertaken, arranging health monitoring of employees, and removing employees from lead-risk work if their blood lead levels reach certain thresholds.
In June 2018, amendments were made to Part 4.3 of the OHS Regulations which included:
- Changing the definition of lead-risk work.
- Lowering the airborne lead exposure standard.
- Updating requirements for the frequency of biological monitoring.
- Reducing blood lead level thresholds for removal from, and return to, lead-risk work.
The amended regulations commence today, 5 June 2020.