Maryland health and safety officials have hired four full-time lead inspectors to intensify efforts to limit construction workers' exposure to lead on the job, state officials say.

The move was made after surveys showed that three-quarters of the job sites inspected for lead levels last year were in violation of the state's health rules.

The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Office (MOSH) hired four full-time lead inspectors to police the state's three-year-old lead rules. The job was handled by general safety inspectors before the new workers were hired.

Ileana O'Brien, an agency administrator, said that during the next three months, the inspectors will visit at least 50 sites where high lead levels are common.

Areas where high lead levels are often found are bridges and structural steel renovation projects. Bridge painters, torch cutters, welders and sandblasters are at high risk of lead poisoning.

Of the 39 sites inspected between January 1986 and March 1987, high lead exposure was found in 31, said Bruce Bortz, a spokesman for MOSH. He said some workers were exposed to lead levels up to 408 times the permissible level.

Most of the sites found in violation had a long history of infractions, including failure to give employes a blood test for lead poisoning before starting the job, no monitoring of lead levels, and lack of training and protective equipment, O'Brien said.

Lead accumulation in the body has been linked to damage to the brian, kidneys and reproductive systems.