Washington Gun Shop Cited for Exposing Workers to Lead

May 21, 2013

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has fined a King County gun shop $23,480 for exposing workers to health hazards caused by lead exposure. Wade’s Eastside Gun Shop, Inc. in Bellevue was cited for 17 violations of worker safety and health rules at the business’s indoor firing range.

Exposure to airborne and settled lead dust at firing ranges is a well-known hazard that puts employees, instructors and customers at risk for lead poisoning. Workers are exposed to lead in firing ranges when they clean the range, clean firearms, empty bullet traps or sort brass.

The exposures occurred late last summer and fall when the gun range was undergoing extensive remodeling. Construction and demolition activity in an indoor gun range presents a much greater exposure hazard due to disturbing the settled dust. Without additional measures to control the hazards, acute lead poisoning is possible.

L&I opened an inspection of the firing range after receiving a report that blood tests on a number of Wade’s employees indicated elevated blood-lead levels. Additionally, several construction workers employed by the contractor and sub-contractors experienced elevated blood-lead levels from working at the site.

Several workers had blood-lead levels high enough to require “medical removal” from the workplace, which requires that the worker be sent immediately away from the workplace exposure while continuing to receive full pay and getting a medical exam. Blood-lead levels normally drop when a person is removed from the exposure. However, because the lead deposits in the bone and the brain, it may contribute to long-term health effects.

Overexposure to lead is a serious health hazard that may cause organ damage. Lead enters the body either by being inhaled from dust, mist or fumes in the air or swallowed. Family members of workers, particularly young children, are especially at risk of lead exposure if a worker wears even low levels of lead-contaminated work clothes home or does not wash off after working with lead products. A copy of the citation is available upon request.

Source: Washington Department of Labor & Industries

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