Legislation Compels Lead Safety Protections for Workers

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) will force the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to put critical protections in place to keep workers safe from lead exposure.

Cal/OSHA maintains a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for occupation lead poisoning prevention.  According to the California Department of Public Health, current science from the Environmental Health Perspectives, the National Toxicology Program, and the US Environmental Protection Agency strongly indicates that allowable worker blood lead levels under the current PEL are far too high, leaving workers in dangerous working conditions. Certified workers doing lead-paint abatement, for example, are covered by the PEL for lead to ensure they are not exposed to toxic levels of lead over an 8-hour period.

“The current PEL standard is based on medical and scientific information that is more than 35 years old.  In the past 35 years, much has been learned about the effects of lead among adults at lower exposure levels – we know that no level is safe -- yet this new science is not reflected in our protections for workers,” said Assemblymember Quirk.   

The PEL is proposed to be updated to reflect current medical science and establish a more protective standard for lead construction professionals. However, Cal/OSHA initiated the process to update the PEL for lead in 2011, and the regulations have yet to be updated. 

Without a deadline for completing the PEL rulemaking, lead workers doing these cleanup projects risk not having science-based lead exposure thresholds under which to work safely.

Assembly Bill 457 will establish a statutory deadline for Cal/OSHA to complete its long overdue rulemaking for a revised PEL for lead by February 1, 2020.

AB 457 will be eligible to be heard in Committee in March.