Firing Range Safety at Indoor and Outdoor Ranges

Photo Courtesy of NIOSH. Without effective prevention measures, lead particles released into the air during practice are breathed in and can settle on work surfaces and workers skin, hair, and clothes.
Photo Courtesy of NIOSH.
Without effective prevention measures, lead particles released into the air during practice are breathed in and can settle on work surfaces and workers’ skin, hair, and clothes.

Lead poisoning can be a serious health risk to law enforcement personnel, shooting instructors, range safety officers, maintenance and clean-up workers, renovation contractors, and other employees, especially at indoor shooting ranges.

Lead particles are released into the air every time lead-based ammunition is fired and can stay airborne for hours. Settled particles create a layer of toxic dust on work surfaces and, if disturbed by work activities, become airborne again. Lead dust transferred to  clothes, skin, and hair can cause additional exposures outside of the workplace (e.g., at home).

Inhaling lead particles or ingesting lead (e.g., eating food contaminated with lead transferred from contaminated hands or surfaces) may cause a variety of health problems such as nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness, kidney disease, irritability, and reproductive damage. Risk for health problems increase with increased exposure. Lead can accumulate in the body and stay for years.

In addition to lead, indoor and outdoor firing ranges may have other hazards to address such as:

  • Bloodborne pathogens (for first aid responders)
  • Explosion (e.g., due to ignition of accumulated unburned gunpowder)
  • Falls from ladders
  • Photo Courtesy of L&I>  Even workers at outdoor ranges can be at risk for harm due to lead, noise, and other hazards.
    Photo Courtesy of L&I.
    Even workers at outdoor ranges can be at risk for harm due to lead, noise, and other hazards.

  • Hazardous cleaning chemicals
  • Impact noise
  • Machinery or tools with exposed moving parts that can injure
  • Ricochet or stray bullets from firing incidents
  • Silica exposure (i.e., when “lead mining” sand berms)

Firing ranges are required to address lead in their required safety programs, such as a written Accident Prevention Program (APP) or Lead Compliance Program.

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