The HSE recently found that a high number of professional home refurbishment projects in London were unsafe. But this hides a big problem: exposure to lead dust and fumes arising from something as simple as redecorating your own living room (if you live in a pre-1960s home).

Almost 72% of UK dwellings pre-date 1970 and at a recent Building Research Housing Group, 83% of the audience of registered social landlords were aware of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 and 70-80% of the building stock they manage pre-dates 1970.

There will always be cries for more HSE inspectors, but the most effective (and free) policemen for health and safety in home refurbishment are likely to be the tenants and homeowners themselves. We need a national campaign to raise awareness of this invisible but important issue. The Lead in Paint Safety Association’s Act on Lead campaign ( is a step in the right direction. The Association for Project Safety has already started to highlight the fact that the risks of lead exposure are seldom addressed.

What chance do domestic clients have of complying with CDM duties if the professionals are only just waking up to the magnitude of the problem?

Lead exposure risks can not be found on the HSE’s homepage drop-down list of construction hazards although, like asbestos, it is considered important enough to have its own dedicated regulations: the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002. The Lead in Paint Safety Association website ( is the most comprehensive source of information about lead exposure risks for the UK.

Tristan Olivier