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1.0 Introduction

  • Issued: September 2004
  • Content last reviewed: April 2011

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.


Employers have a duty to protect their workers from lead exposure on construction projects. This guideline has been prepared to raise the awareness of employers and workers in the construction industry of the hazards posed by lead in construction and the measures and procedures that should be taken to control those hazards.

For the purpose of this guideline, lead refers to inorganic lead.

Lead in Construction

Lead is a heavy metal that has been in industrial use for thousands of years. It is pale silvery grey when freshly cut but it darkens on exposure to air. It is heavy, malleable, and a poor conductor of electricity. Lead may be used in its pure elemental form or combined chemically with other elements to form lead compounds. Inorganic lead compounds are used in pigments, paints, glasses, plastics and rubber compounds.

Lead can be present on construction projects in two distinct ways:

  • It can be found in construction materials, such as paints, coatings, mortar, concrete, solder, and sheet metal.
  • It can be present at a construction site in existing structures, building components, and where lead was previously used in a manufacturing process.

Construction activities of particular concern include:

  • abrasive blasting of structures coated with lead-based paints
  • application or removal of lead-containing paints
  • welding, burning, or high temperature cutting of lead-containing coatings or materials
  • removal of lead-containing dust using an air mist extraction system
  • removal of lead-containing mortars using an electric or pneumatic cutting device.

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Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.