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San Francisco Health Network
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.

  1. Why do workers need to know about required lead-safe work practices?
    1. Workers in renovation, repair and painting jobs frequently face lead paint hazards and can also take those hazards home.
    2. Lead Can Harm Workers Lead Can Harm Workers in Chinese Lead Can Harm Workers in Spanish

    3. Lead is still a health concern for California workers

    4. According to a new report from the California Occupational Blood Lead Registry, thousands of California workers are still being exposed to lead and have elevated blood lead levels. These workers are at risk for serious long-term effects on their health. While employers in many industries provide mandated blood lead level testing for their employees, there is still significant under-testing in industries where lead is a known hazard. Despite this limitation, the data we collect provide valuable information. For example, among those who test, employers in some industries are much more successful than others in protecting their workforce from lead on the job.

  2. What are workers required to do about lead-based paint on their jobs?
    1. Workers in renovation, repair and painting jobs are now required to have USEPA Lead-Safe Certification and must follow the requirements of the USEPA Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP).

      • Effective April 22, 2010, 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 new 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).
    2. 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 SF Building Code requirements for lead-safe work practices (pdf), and provides additional guidance and all the materials needed to comply with the SF Building Code.
      • 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.

  3. Where can workers get the training to do lead-safe work? How can they get certified in lead-safe work practices?
    1. On each job, the USEPA Certified Renovator must provide lead-safe work practices training to all non-certified renovation workers on a job site.
    2. 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.

    3. To find a training course accredited by EPA or an EPA authorized program which will teach you how to work lead safe, use this link:

    4. In addition, California law requires further certification for those 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.
    5. Such work requires employees to be either CDPH Lead-Related Construction-certified Lead Supervisors or Workers. Contact the CDPH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch at 1-800-597-LEAD for further information

  4. Where can I get information on blood lead testing?
    1. Watch the CDPH "Lead's Revenge" video to find out why blood lead testing is needed

    2. CDPH Occupational Health Branch provides a listing of Statewide Networks of Clinics providing blood lead level testing and respirator evaluations


  5. 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