Lead build-up and potential exposure on a shooting range happens, but the situation can be made a whole lot worse by well-intentioned range owners. In this article we will discuss easy ways that a gun range can mitigate lead exposure for their employees, shooters and community.
Here are the top four things to never do at a shooting range.
1) Never Sweep or Dry Mop
Sweeping up projectiles from the bullet trap of off the ground sounds like a fast way to clean, but the broom stirs up lead dust and can make the air dangerous. The Navy Environmental Health Center says, “Dry sweeping or the use of compressed air to ‘blow down’ the range should be prohibited. The cleanup of spent shell casings should not use brooms. The ventilation system should be on during cleanup operations. ”
2) Never Sweep Spent Projectiles
This is almost as bad as sweeping the projectiles themselves. Picking up spent projectiles exposes the hands to lead and lead dust. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needs to be worn. Even spent brass should be collected by someone wearing protective clothing. The brass has primer lead dust on it and must be handled appropriately.
3) Never Shop Vac
Most Shop Vacs come with a plain material filter or a foam filter. These can filter out large items, but it is not to be used for lead dust. Even HEPA filters are not good enough. If you have ever started a Shop Vac without cleaning the filter, you know the cloud that comes out.
Gun Range Lead Containment On-Site
MT2 Firing Range Services contributes to the NSSF blog and recently wrote an article titled: “5 Tips for Onsite Lead Waste Management”. In the piece, we speak about the importance of Containerization. It is important to use the proper containers for storage of your range waste. Eventually, this waste will be transported off-site to an appropriate disposal facility. As such, the best method of storage is to have the waste stored in readily transportable containers. For most ranges, DOT compliant drums and cubic-yard (CY) boxes work best.
Several regulatory agencies, such as the EPA and OSHA, acknowledge lead as a hazardous substance that requires special handling. Firing ranges can deal with a significant amount of lead – here are 5 key factors for range owners and managers to consider when storing lead on site.
- Training employees to handle lead. Even if you meet all regulations, improperly training employees on how to handle lead can undo all other steps you have taken. It only takes one employee, one accident, to cause lead contamination. You should ensure all employees are trained if they will be around lead.
- Containers to adequately protect your range. It is imperative that you have approved containers to store the lead you gather from your range. Effective containers can be the difference between a contaminated and a safe range.
- Correctly labeling lead containers. Lead may be stored near where it is created, but lead containers must be properly labeled. This prevents accidental contamination.
- Regular inspections of containment facilities. Despite your best efforts to protect your range, accidents happen. Sometimes containers fall over, break open, or are otherwise damaged. The best way to handle these accidents is to be prepared and to schedule regular inspections. This allows you to proactively address any issues that may arise.
- Proper documentation. Documenting the steps you take has two benefits: it establishes a routine so you don’t forget important details, and it protects you if/when your facility is inspected by any regulatory agency. Keep these documents in a safe location, with backups.
While lead may be a hazardous material, it can be safe when handled correctly
Daily Maintenance Tips for Controlling Lead Dust
Potential danger from exposure from lead dust is completely preventable when range owners and their customers work together. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a full list of tips, but range owners should take daily precautions such as:
- Never shovel or sweep bullet remains as it will stir up and spread the lead dust. Instead, use a wet mop or a vacuum;
- Check the ventilation system daily to make sure the filters are clean and the smoke is being forced away from the shooter’s face and down range; and
- Monitor workers to make sure that they are using required safety equipment such as eye protection and NIOSH-approved respirators when performing daily cleaning routines.
Even responsible gun range owners who follow all the rules should consider engaging professional reclamation services. No one with a range to run can keep track of the maze of environmental and occupational safety regulations. The federal government does not fool around when lead is involved. In fact, OSHA has established a Severe Violators Enforcement Program for the few who do not take health and safety precautions seriously.
MT2 Firing Range Services is the #1 largest most cost-effective nationwide professional indoor & outdoor firing range lead reclamation, maintenance and construction contractor providing the highest value for your recycled lead. Now in our 18th year in business, MT2 Firing Range Services is a recent Inc. 5,000 fastest growing company and is well-known industry wide for being the nation’s #1 largest professional provider of the full scale of outdoor/indoor firing range environmental/maintenance/construction services at over 2,500
ranges nationwide for Law Enforcement, Military and Commercial ranges in all 50 states. No one reclaims more lead or finishes a project faster than MT2!!