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Preventing lead exposure at work

Some North Carolina workers may still be facing lead exposure in the workplace despite increased awareness about its dangers. The California Department of Public Health found that between 2012 and 2014, by the definition of the Centesr for Disease Control and Prevention, over 6,000 workers in that state had elevated blood levels of lead. This suggests that workers throughout the country might show similar levels of exposure. The Occupational Safety and Health Association has estimated that more than 800,000 workers in general industry and a further 838,000 construction workers may face lead exposure. Jobs that leave workers particularly vulnerable to lead exposure include building renovation, metal production, plumbing, radiator repair, demolition, bridge work and battery manufacturing.

Companies can take a number of steps to protect workers from lead exposure. They can test their employees’ blood levels and the air for lead, provide protection, and give workers a place to shower and change after each shift. Employers can also inform workers of risks, provide training, and develop ways of controlling lead dust and fumes.

One danger with lead is that its effects can occur slowly over time, and there may be no early symptoms of lead exposure. However, lead may damage cognitive abilities, kidneys and the nervous system. Workers may want to discuss the potential for lead exposure and safety strategies with their employers.

A person who becomes ill as a result of exposure to lead or other hazards on the job may be eligible for workers’ compensation. However, some conditions involve extra challenges in identifying the connection between a worker’s illness and conditions on the job. For example, even if a blood test shows lead exposure, it might be difficult to prove that the exposure happened in the workplace. Therefore, an employee might want to have legal assistance when preparing and filing a claim.

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