Hawaii Workers Removed from Lead Poisoning Hazards

Source: Robert Przybysz/123RF

The Hawaii Occupational Safety & Health (HIOSH) Consultation & Training Branch (C&T) was able to remove workers from lead poisoning hazards as the result of an On-Site Consultation visit to a firearms retailer and shooting range where HIOSH consultants identified high levels of lead throughout the facility.

In response to a new HIOSH enforcement initiative aimed at reducing high injury and illness rates in the retail trade industry, HIOSH C&T sent letters alerting retail trade employers of the initiative and promoting C&T’s services. In response, the general manager of a firearms retailer with an indoor shooting range requested an on-site consultation.

Because lead exposure is a well-known occupational hazard in shooting ranges, C&T consultants made it a point to address the hazard during the on-site visit, and with permission from the general manager, they evaluated the shooting range’s ventilation system.

They discovered the system was not working properly, and that smoke from the shooting range was lingering in the shooting stations and being distributed by an unfiltered fan throughout the shooting range and into the adjacent retail space. Wipe sampling revealed lead dust levels significantly above OSHA’s acceptable decontamination level of 200 micrograms per square foot (µg/ft2).

In one area where employees consumed food, the level was measured at 1,765 µg/ft2. This number is of particular concern due to the ingestion hazard.

Concerned by these findings, HIOSH C&T consultants recommended personal air sampling and immediate blood testing for employees.

As a result of blood testing, the general manager himself was medically removed from the workplace by his physician due to an extremely high lead blood level and chronic over-exposure to lead.

He began advocating for his employees and pledging to create a safe and healthy workplace by cleaning up the shop and fixing the shooting range ventilation.

The on-site consultation visit positively affected employees’ lives by providing information that led to medical monitoring and removal from unsafe conditions.