Inspection Techniques & Guidelines When Encountering Lead on Construction Sites

What’s inside this article: Lead in construction is something we commonly encounter. The Coating Inspector provides safe lead inspection and removal services. Here’s an example of a job we are working on with lead contamination, learn how we are safely assisting with the removal by watching the video below. 

 

Lead was commonly used years ago on construction sites for both the industrial and commercial sector. Primarily, because it was easy to access, remove, it was cost-effective and very easy to work with.

Today, we know the risks associated with long-term lead exposure, such as cognitive and cardiorespiratory issues. Therefore, it’s so important for the inspection processes to be mindful of any lead found on construction sites and ensure the safe removal and re-application techniques that are in compliance with the surface coating materials regulations.  

We follow the Ministry of Labour guidelinesclass 3B Uh for abrasive blasting olead construction projects, which includes (but not limited to) using proper risk assessments, job site set up and takedown, using the proper safety materials on the construction site and blasting and application techniques that reduce exposure of lead to staff. 

Curious where lead on construction sites can be found? Here are 15 places you can expect lead to pop up with inspections: 

  • acoustic dampening baffles 
  • additive in brass and other alloys 
  • batteries 
  • cable and wire casing 
  • cast iron pipes, gaskets, and connections 
  • solder (plumbing and electrical) 
  • indoor firing ranges 
  • decorative pieces 
  • flashing 
  • glazing 
  • lead glass, stained glass 
  • late 19th and early 20th century tinted mortar for stone cladding 
  • paint and surface coatings 
  • radiation shielding (bricks or sheeting) 
  • structural steel primer 

In the video below, our founder Scott will walk you through a job that currently has a lot of lead contaminant, how negative air pressure works and the importance of air evacuation when you encounter lead on a construction site.  

lead in construction

Inspection Techniques & Guidelines When Encountering Lead on Construction Sites

 

How Negative Air Pressure works With Removal & Containment of Lead on Construction Site 

The very first step of any job is to inspect the site for any lead-containing materials that may be used during the protection and painting process, conduct a risk assessment and then implement an Exposure Control Plan (ECP) to ensure the protection and safety of workers and materials.  

Once an ECP is in place, the site must be sectioned off and all workers must be protected according to the ECP guidelines. Each lead construction job is unique, and a different set of guidelines will be implemented according to the inspection and re-application process.  

We then use testing and air evacuation processes to ensure that airborne lead dust, mist and fumes are minimized so the workplace remains a safe environment. 

 

The importance of air evacuation and negative air pressure on lead jobs 

We then remove lead-containing materials by using power tools with dust collecting systems and HEPA filters and use a process of negative air pressure and air evacuation to ensure the lead exposure in the air is minimal and our workers are protected. 

All openings are sealed up with wood and spray foam and then our dust collector uses negative air pressure to collect any excess dust or spray that might contain lead. The dust collector will always meet or exceed the recommended volume of air exchange per minute.  

Air evacuation is a crucial piece of the lead extraction job as our team should never be exposed to lead and lead particles should never be brought home with the inspector.  

lead in construction

Other important factors & techniques to consider when it comes to lead regulations on construction sites: 

  1. Sampling the air surfaces for lead  as mentioned before, this is done on a regular basis to ensure there are minimal lead particles circulating the construction site

  2. Dry abrasive blast cleaning & abrasive blast cleaning – done with a medium such as steel or crushed glass, this removal technique blasts strip paint off and conditions the surface underneath.

  3. Wet abrasive blast cleaning – compressed air propels an abrasive medium at the surface and water is injected to reduce dust.

  4. Dry ice blasting – dry ice pellets are directed at the surface at a high-velocity. The frozen carbon-dioxide breaks up the surface leaving only paint debris behind. This is not the most common technique used and is a high-risk activity.

  5. High-pressure water-jetting – a pressure pump is used to direct water to the surface, this does not generate much dust and is a great method for removing loose paint and rust.

  6. Chemical removal – solvent-based paint strippers can be applied to surfaces, eventually being removed manually or by other techniques.

  7. Manual demolition – hand tools such as sledgehammers can be used to remove lead paint from surfaces. However, this generates a lot of dust so safety protocols must be in place.    

As you can see in the video below, at the end of the workday we leave via a contained path so that the blasters are protected, the environment is protected, and everything stays in one location. The gear is dismantled, the workers shower and everything is thoroughly cleaned before exiting the job site.  

All work materials will get cleaned up at the end of the job and disposed of properly. Dealing with lead must be safe and thorough, as to protect everyone today and down the road from exposure. 

Do you have a surface that you suspect is contaminated with lead? Reach out today to learn more about our inspection processes. 

To learn more about other surface preparation techniques, check out our blog post “Dealing With Surface Preparations in Blast Shops.” 

 

Scott Menzies

Author Scott Menzies

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