Part 4.3 (Part 4.4 in the 2007 regs) of the regulations covers workplaces where a 'lead process' is carried out.
Note that this chapter was amended in June 2018, to include a changed definition of lead-risk work, a lowered airborne lead exposure standard and updated requirements for the frequency of biological monitoring. The changes also included reducing the blood lead level thresholds for removal from, and return to, lead-risk work. These changes may lead to employers having greater legal obligations due to a scheduled process previously being carried out at their workplace now being defined as lead-risk work. The amended regulations commenced on 5 June 2020.
- Division 1 - Introductory matters, including what is a 'lead process'?
- Division 2 - Duties of employer
- Division 3 - Employee duties
Division 1 - Introductory matters
177 This part of the regulations only applies to workplaces where a lead process is carried out.
178 What is a lead process?
The regulations list the situations which are defined as 'lead processes' which consists of one or more of the following:
- work exposing a person to lead dust or lead fumes (either from the manufacture or handling of dry lead compounds);
- work in connection with the manufacture, assembly, handling or repair of, or parts of batteries containing lead involving manipulation of dry lead compounds or the pasting or casting of lead;
- anything to do with breaking up or dismantling of batteries containing lead, including sorting, packing and handling of any of the battery parts;
- spraying with molten lead metal or alloys with more than 5% by weight of lead metal;
- melting or casting of lead alloys containing more than 5% by weight of lead metal at a temperature more than 450ºC;
- recovery of lead from its ores, oxides or other compounds by a thermal reduction process;
- dry machine grinding, discing, buffing or cutting by power tools of lead with more than 5% by weight of lead metal;
- machine sanding or buffing of surfaces coated with paint with more than 1% by dry weight of lead metal;
- a process in which electric arc, oxy-acetylene, oxy gas, plasma arc or a flame is applied, for the purposes of welding, cutting or cleaning, to the surface of metal that is coated with lead or paint with more than 1% by dry weight of lead metal;
- radiator repairs if exposure to lead dust or lead fumes may occur;
- fire assays, if lead is used;
- hand grinding and finishing of lead or alloy with more than 50% by weight of lead metal;
- spray painting with lead paint with more than 1% by dry weight of elemental lead;
- melting of lead metal or alloy with more than 50% by weight of lead metal if the exposed surface area of the molten material is more than 0.1 square metres and the temperature of the molten material does not exceed 450ºC;
- use of a power tool, including abrasive blasting and high pressure water jets, to remove any surface coated with paint with more than 1% by dry weight of lead metal and the handling of waste containing lead resulting from that removal;
- a process that exposes a person to lead dust or lead fumes arising from the manufacture or testing of detonators or other explosives that contain lead;
- a process that exposes a person to lead dust or lead fumes arising from the firing of weapons at an indoor firing range;
- foundry processes involving—
- the melting or casting of lead alloys with more than 1% by weight of lead metal in which the temperature of the molten material is greater than 450ºC; or
- the dry machine grinding, discing, buffing or cutting by power tools of lead alloys with more than 1% by weight of lead metal;
- a process at a workplace determined by the Authority to be a lead process in accordance with regulation 180.
179 Women treated as being of reproductive capacity
Because lead is particularly toxic to the unborn child, a female employee engaged in a lead process is to be treated as being 'of reproductive capacity', unless she provides the employer with a written statement advising the contrary.
180 The Authority may determine any process to be a 'lead process' but only if it believes the health of employees is at risk due to blood or airborne lead levels.
181 Medical examinations and biological monitoring
Where required under this part of the regs, medical examinations must be conducted by a registered medical practitioner to monitor the person's health in order to identify changes in health status due to exposure to lead. Also, where required, biological monitoring, consisting of testing of the venous blood, must be conducted by a pathology service accredited by NATA under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner to determine the amount of lead in the blood (with certain limits).
Division 2 - Duties of Employers
The employer in workplaces with lead processes has a range of duties.
Subdivision 1 - Provision of Information (182 & 183)
The employer must provide information (information, instruction and training; SDSs and labels) to both job applicants and employees about the health risks and toxic effects associated with lead exposure and the need for, and content of medical examinations and biological monitoring.
Subdivision 2 - Control of risks associated with lead processes (184 -192)
The employer must:
184 - Eliminate the risks associated with the lead processes, so far as is reasonably practicable. If this is not reasonably practicable, then the employer must reduce the risks according to the hierarchy of control, that is if reasonably practicable: by substitution, isolation, engineering controls or a combination of these. If a risk still remains, then the employer must use administrative controls to eliminate the risk, and if a risk STILL remains, only then can appropriate personal protective equipment (ppe) be used.
185 - Review, and if necessary, revise the risk control measures in a number of circumstances:
- before any significant changes to the lead process or systems of work;
- if a worker is removed due to high lead blood levels (or likelihood) under reg 199
- after any notifiable incident under Part 5 of the Act that involves exposure to lead
- if for any other reason the risk control measures do not adequately control the risk
- after receiving a request from a health and safety rep (based on reasonable grounds)
- ensure that the exposure standard is not exceeded: workers are not exposed to airborne concentration of lead dust, lead mist or lead fumes in their breathing zone exceeding0.05 mg/m3 as a time weighted average over an 8 hour working day and a 40 hour working week. Note: this standard came into effect in June 2020, as a result of the June 2018 amendments)
- Monitor the airborne concentration of lead dust, lead mist or lead fumes and ensure the exposure standard is not exceeded where there is uncertainty OR where it is necessary to determine whether there is a risk to health
187 and provide the results of this monitoring to any worker who has been or may be exposed to lead dust, mist or fumes
188 Ensure that any contamination by lead is contained to an area where a lead process is carried out
189 Ensure that areas where lead processes are carried out are kept clean, where practicable using cleaning methods that do not create a risk to people in the vicinity of the areas, and do not create the potential to spread the lead contamination
190 Prohibit eating, drinking, chewing gum or smoking (or carrying smoking-related materials) in any lead processing area and provide appropriate facilities for eating and drinking.
192 Provide protective clothing and equipment, and ensure its safe removal and laundering or disposal
Subdivision 3 - Lead-risk work (193 - 204)
The employer must:
194 Identify lead risk work. There are a number of factors the employer must take into account, such as past biological monitoring results, and more. The employer must NOT take into account the effect of PPE to control exposure.
193 From June 2020, Lead-risk work is defined as jobs involving a lead process in which the blood level of the worker is reasonably likely to exceed 0.97 micomoles/litre (20 micrograms/decilitre); or 0.24 micomoles/litre (5 micrograms/decilitre) for female employees of reproductive capacity.
These reduced blood levels were introduced in the June 2018 amendment, and came into effect in June 2020.
195 Notify any lead-risk work to the Victorian WorkCover Authority in writing within 7 days after making the identification, keep a copy of the notice for as long as the process is undertaken, and make this accessible to the employee and the health and safety rep/s
196 Arrange for a medical examination and biological monitoring of workers before they start lead-risk work; and within one month of starting the work
197 Arrange medical examinations and biological monitoring as soon as possible after work has been identified as lead-risk work
198 Ensure biological monitoring is carried out at certain intervals depending on blood lead levels in workers (see reg for details) - the specific levels have been amended and are now in effect (June 2020)
(a) for a woman not of reproductive capacity or a man—
(i) 6 months after the last biological monitoring if the result of the last monitoring shows a blood lead level of less than 0·48 micromoles/litre (10 micrograms/decilitre); or
(ii) 3 months after the last biological monitoring if the result of the last monitoring shows a blood lead level of 0·48 micromoles/litre (10 micrograms/decilitre) or more but less than 0·97 micromoles/litre (20 micrograms/decilitre); or
(iii) 6 weeks after the last biological monitoring if the result of the last monitoring shows a blood lead level of 0·97 micromoles/litre (20 micrograms/decilitre) or more;
(b) for a woman of reproductive capacity—
(i) 3 months after the last biological monitoring if the result of the last monitoring shows a blood lead level of less than 0·24 micromoles/litre (5 micrograms/decilitre); or
(ii) 6 weeks after the last biological monitoring if the result of the last monitoring shows a blood lead level of 0·24 micromoles/litre (5 micrograms/decilitre) or more but less than 0·48 micromoles/litre (10 micrograms/decilitre).
An employer must increase the frequency of biological monitoring if the employee is carrying out an activity that is reasonably likely to significantly change the nature or increase the duration or frequency of the employee's lead exposure
199 Immediately remove a worker from lead-risk work if the results of biological monitoring reveal certain blood lead levels (often called 'trigger' levels - see this regulation for details) - the specific levels have been amended and took effect in June 2020 - an employer must immediately remove an employee from lead-risk work if—
(a) the results of biological monitoring reveal that the blood lead level of the employee is at or exceeding—
(i) for a woman not of reproductive capacity or a man, 1·45 micromoles/litre (30 micrograms/decilitre); or
(ii) for a woman of reproductive capacity, 0·48 micromoles/litre (10 micrograms/decilitre); or
(b) following a medical examination by a registered medical practitioner, the practitioner is of the opinion that the employee must be removed from the
(c) there is an indication that risk control measures have failed and, as a result, it is likely that the blood lead level of the employee will reach or exceed the levels set out in paragraph (a).
200 Provide for any worker removed from lead-risk work to have a medical examination by a registered medical practitioner within 7 days after removal
201 Ensure that any worker who is expected to return after having been removed is re-examined at a frequency determined by the registered medical practitioner - blood lead levels must decrease to a certain level before a worker who has been removed can return - the specific levels have been amended and took effect in June 2020.
202 Ensure the medical examinations contain set requirements
203 Provide the Authority with a copy of the results of biological monitoring for any workers who have been removed from lead-risk work and also inform the Authority if a worker is not allowed to return to the work.
204 Keep the reports for 30 years
Division 3 - Employee Duties
- Employees must not eat, drink, chew gum, smoke or carry materials used for smoking in any area where a lead process is carried out
- Employees who have been in a lead process area must remove any lead contaminated clothing and equipment they have used before entering an area designated for eating and drinking
- Employees who have been in a lead process area must wash their hands and face after leaving the area and before eating, drinking or smoking.
The full text of the regulations can be viewed and downloaded from the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website - click on Victorian Law Today, then on Statutory Rules, and then on "O" to find the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.
Last amended: June 2023