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Indoor Firing Ranges: Reduce Lead Exposure with a HEPA-Filtered Vacuum Cleaner

Posted on August 29, 2013

While firing ranges expose users and employees to certain obvious hazards, people often forget about the risk of lead exposure from dust and/or fumes that are released into the air when a gun is fired. The reduction of lead exposure is a OSHA high strategic priority as it is a leading cause of workplace illness, and violating the lead standard could result in costly consequences. Penalties can reach up to $2 million for violations that include exposing employees to airborne lead above the permissible level and failing to implement engineering and work practice controls to reduce exposure. Businesses are often given 15 days from receipt of citations to comply.

Practices such as proper range housekeeping can decrease the risk of lead exposure. Regulatory agencies recommend a daily cleaning schedule to safely collect hazardous lead dust, but caution against the use of sweeping or shoveling bullet debris, since they may only disperse dust back into the air. Instead, the National Institute for Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that ranges use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum cleaner to safely remove and retain lead particles.

Heritage Guild_S2 fixed floor side

Picture taken at Heritage Guild of Easton, PA


An industrial vacuum with a graduated filtration system or a series of progressively finer filters that capture increasingly smaller particles as they move through the vacuum will prevent premature clogging from bullet debris and maintain suction and performance. Perhaps most importantly, it will prevent the excessive wear and tear of the HEPA filter which ensures that even the tiniest lead particles are captured and not dispersed back into the air. Other features to look for:

  • Accessories such as a  fixed floor nozzle, equipped with rubber blades will enable employees to push the vacuum up and down lanes to easily pick up unburned gun powder. To clean around the ports, an aluminum wand coupled with a metal crevice nozzle for corners or bristle wall nozzle to collect debris in uneven surfaces.
  • Compact and portable design so that the vacuum can be easily stored in a cleaning closet or other space away from the range floor.
  • Pre- and post-sales support, your vacuum supplier should find a solution that will fit the needs of your facility and provide product training for your maintenance team.

Products to consider: S2, S3, 118, 118EXP

For more information on industry- and application-specific vacuum cleaners, visit www.nilfiskindustrialvacuums.com.