Are you performing lead-risk work?

Lead-risk work is work performed in a lead process that is reasonably likely to cause an employee’s blood lead level to exceed levels specified in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations).

Date last updated

Thursday 12 Dec 2019

Industries and topics

  • Lead

Employers at workplaces where lead processes are carried out have legal duties under the OHS Regulations. Additional duties apply if employees are undertaking lead-risk work.

Table 1: Blood lead levels for determining lead-risk work

Note: A female employee is assumed to be of reproductive capacity unless she provides her employer with a written statement advising the contrary.

Until 4 June 2020 From 5 June 2020
1.45 micromoles per litre (µmol/L) 0.97 micromoles per litre (µmol/L)
0.48 µmol/L for females of reproductive capacity 0.24 µmol/L for females of reproductive capacity

Employers have specific obligations when lead-risk work is being performed in a workplace, such as notifying WorkSafe that lead-risk work is being undertaken, arranging health monitoring (known as biological monitoring), and removing employees from lead-risk work if their blood lead levels reach certain thresholds.

Amendments to the regulations for lead-risk work

On 5 June 2018, the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Regulations 2018 (amending regulations) made amendments to Part 4.3 (Lead) of the OHS Regulations.

For example, changes have been made to:

  • the airborne lead exposure standard
  • the definition of lead-risk work
  • requirements for the frequency of biological monitoring
  • blood lead level thresholds for removal from, and return to, lead-risk work.

Most of these changes have a delayed commencement of two years, and will come into effect on 5 June 2020. However, employers are encouraged to prepare for and transition to these new requirements as early as possible.

The following tables set out requirements under the OHS Regulations before and after the amending regulations take effect.

Notification of lead-risk work

If an employer identifies that a lead process is lead-risk work, they must notify WorkSafe within seven days.

When is biological monitoring required?

Employers must arrange regular blood lead testing and medical examinations, known as biological monitoring, when an employee's job involves lead-risk work and their blood lead level is reasonably likely to rise above the levels specified in table 1.

Employers must arrange:

  • a medical examination and biological monitoring for employees before they commence lead-risk work
  • follow-up biological monitoring for employees within one month of commencing lead-risk work
  • ongoing biological monitoring for employees engaged in lead-risk work at the intervals set out in table 2.

Table 2: Required frequency of biological monitoring

Female not of reproductive capacity or male
  Until 4 June 2020 From 5 June 2020
Every 6 months for blood lead level:
<30 μg/dL (1.45 μmol/L)
for blood lead level:
<10 μg/dL (0.48 μmol/L)
Every 3 months for blood lead level:
=>30 μg/dL(1.45 μmol/L) but <40 μg/dL (1.93 μmol/L)
for blood lead level:
=>10 μg/dL (0.48 μmol/L) but < 20 μg/dL (0.97 μmol/L)
Every 6 weeks for blood lead level:
=> 40 μg/dL (1.93 μmol/L)
for blood lead level:
>20 μg/dL (0.97 μmol/L)
Female of reproductive capacity
  Until 4 June 2020 From 5 June 2020
Every 3 months for blood lead level:
<10 μg/dL (0.48 μmol/L)
for blood lead level:
<5 μg/dL (0.24 μmol/L)
Every 6 weeks for blood lead level:
=>10 μg/dL (0.48 μmol/L)
for blood lead level:
=> 5μg/dL (0.24 μmol/L) but <10 μg/dL (0.48 μmol/L)

Employers must immediately remove an employee from lead-risk work if the results of biological monitoring reveal that an employee's blood lead level is at or will exceed the levels specified in table 3.

Employees must also be immediately removed from lead-risk work if after a medical examination, it is the opinion of a registered medical practitioner that the employee must be removed from that work or if is likely that an employee's blood lead level is at or will exceed the specified level as a result of failed risk control measures.

Table 3: Blood lead levels requiring immediate removal from lead-risk work

Until 4 June 2020 From 5 June 2020
2.41 µmol/L for females not of reproductive capacity and males 1.45 µmol/L for females not of reproductive capacity and males
0.97 µmol/L for females of reproductive capacity 0.48 µmol/L for females of reproductive capacity
0.72 µmol/L for females who are pregnant or breastfeeding and must provide for a medical examination within seven days after removal. 0.48 µmol/L for females who are pregnant or breastfeeding and must provide for a medical examination within seven days after removal.

Employees can return to lead-risk work when:

  • they have been re-examined by a registered medical practitioner who certifies that they are fit to return to the lead-risk work, and
  • their blood lead level is less than the levels specified in table 4.

Table 4: Blood lead levels for returning to lead-risk work

Until 4 June 2020 From 5 June 2020
1.93 µmol/L for females not of reproductive capacity and males 0.97 µmol/L for females not of reproductive capacity and males
0.48 µmol/L for females of reproductive capacity 0.24 µmol/L for females of reproductive capacity