Workshop proceedings

Launch of voluntary target to reduce exposure to lead will give added protection for industry workers

Lead producers and miners have taken action to protect workers by introducing voluntary targets to reduce exposure to lead that go beyond current international regulations.

The initiative by International Lead Association (ILA) member companies is an agreement to reduce blood lead levels for all employees to below 30 microgrammes per decilitre (µg/dl) by the end of 2016 and will cover over 7,000 workers in the lead industry in Europe, North America and Australia. 

Lead is a hazardous substance and measuring its level in the blood is an indication of exposure. Therefore by monitoring an employee’s blood lead level corrective actions, such as a change in work practices or even removal from exposure, can be instigated before harmful levels are reached.

At the launch of the initiative at ILA’s 2nd Lead Occupational Exposure Management Workshop, in Lisbon, delegates were told today that encouraging results had been obtained in the first year of the programme. 

In 2013, the year prior to introduction of the programme, average employee blood lead level in companies engaged in manufacturing lead from ores or recycled material was reported to be 17.2µg/dl and this had fallen to 15.6µg/dl by the end of  2014 – an improvement of 15%.  In 2014 only 4.8% of employees working for ILA Member companies had a blood lead in excess of the target of 30µg/dl.

ILA Managing Director, Dr Andy Bush, said: “This voluntary programme is a major step forward in worker protection across the lead industry worldwide. The results of the first year are promising and demonstrate that our members are serious about their commitment to protect the health & safety of their employees.”

The commitment by ILA member companies will reduce exposure of employees to lead so that they are as low as reasonably practicable irrespective of potentially more permissive prevailing regulatory limits in the country or region in which the company operates. 

Stefan Buch, Chairman of ILA Europe Health and Safety Committee, said: “ILA and EUROBAT’s programme of annual workshops on lead occupational exposure management are an excellent way to share best practice and to learn about practical solutions member companies have employed to ensure continuous improvement in reducing employee exposure to lead.” 

The ILA programme also aligns lead producers with a similar commitment made by EUROBAT (Association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers) and BCI in the USA (Battery Council International) and goes beyond the requirements of European Union binding Biological Limit Value for lead in blood of 70µg/dl, the Derived-No-Effect Level (DNEL) set by industry under the EU’s REACH legislation of 40µg/dl and the US OSHA removal limit of 50µg/dl.

Companies enrolled in the programme will be required to provide to the ILA on an annual basis employee blood lead data for all facilities producing, using or processing lead and/or lead compounds. Any company with one or more sites at risk of not achieving the voluntary target will be informed of this fact in writing by the ILA Secretariat and will be requested to provide an action plan to highlight the proposed improvements.

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