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Environmental Health

Childhood Lead Prevention Program: Worker Information

If you are a painter, renovator, construction or maintenance worker who may disturb lead painted surfaces during their work, you must be trained to use required lead-safe work practices to protect yourself and others from exposure to lead hazards.


What do workers need to know about required lead-safe work practices?

Workers in renovation, repair and painting jobs frequently face lead paint hazards and can also take those hazards home. People who work in these types of jobs should always:

  • Wash hands and wear gloves often on construction and auto-painting jobs
  • Shower before hugging and playing with children
  • Put work clothes and shoes in plastic bags before going home
  • Wash work clothes separate from the family's clothes
  • Store work tools away from home and family cars


What are workers required to do about lead-based paint on their jobs?

Workers in renovation, repair and painting jobs are required to have USEPA Lead-Safe Certification and must follow the requirements of the USEPA Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP).

  • Anyone who performs renovations, repairs, or painting in pre-1978 housing or child-occupied facilities must be EPA Lead Safe Certified. Individuals and firms that are not certified could face fines of up to $37,500 per day.)
  • This EPA law applies if your project disturbs: More than 6 square feet of interior painted surface AND/OR more than 20 square feet of exterior painted surface.
  • The USEPA's Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools (pdf) booklet describes the legal requirements for safe lead practices during renovation activities. En español (pdf).

In San Francisco, if you are a painter, renovator, or any other worker who may disturb lead-based paint in their work, you must use lead-safe work practices on pre-1979 building exteriors and interiors to protect yourself and others from exposure to lead.

  • San Francisco Building and Health Codes have a legal presumption that any building built before 1979 has lead-based paint. Owners may hire State-certified lead inspector/assessors to refute this presumption on specific surfaces. Approximately 90% of San Francisco's housing units were built before 1979.
  • San Francisco Building Code requires lead-safe work practices when disturbing paint on any pre-1979 San Francisco building or structure, specifically for any painting, renovation, repair or demolitions work on on the exterior of a pre-1979 building or structure and in the interior of a pre-1979 residential rental property or one used for child care.
  • The Department of Building Inspection has a brochure that describes lead-safe work practices (pdf),
  • You must comply with these key requirements for lead-safe work practices:

    1. Set up the work area to provide containment and prevent migration of all generated paint dust and debris
    2. Minimize dust-creating work practices
    3. Clean up carefully and completely
    4. Do not use prohibited work practices to disturb or remove paint

    It is prohibited to use the following methods in San Francisco to disturb or remove paint:

    1. Scraping, sanding, grinding, abrasive blasting or sand-blasting without containment or a HEPA local vacuum exhaust tool.
    2. Hydroblasting or high-pressure wash without containment and barrier systems.
    3. Open flame burning or torching, including propane-fueled heat grids.
    4. Heat guns operating above 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The Department of Building Inspection-Housing Inspection Services responds to complaints and issues violations to property owners and contractors for work practices not complying with the code.

Where can workers get the training to do lead-safe work? How can they get certified in lead-safe work practices?

  • Federal law requires that a Certified Renovator be assigned to each job, and that all involved individual workers that you employ are trained in the use of lead-safe work practices. On each job, the USEPA Certified Renovator must provide lead-safe work practices training to all non-certified renovation workers on a job site.

  • Enroll in a training course accredited by EPA or an EPA authorized program which will teach you how to work lead safe

  • In addition, California law requires employees to be either CDPH Lead-Related Construction-certified Lead Supervisors or Workers if they are doing work designed to reduce or eliminate lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust, or lead-contaminated soil in or on residential or public buildings in California where controls are anticipated to last 20 years or more. Contact the CDPH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch at 1-800-597-LEAD for further information


    What are my rights for protecting myself on the job?

    1. See this Cal/OSHA web page, Worker Rights, for information on how to file a complaint for unsafe working conditions

    2. See this CDPH Occupational Health Branch web page, Worker Health and Safety Resources, for further resources

    3. Recursos para el trabajador