It was an 8 hour classroom course that covered everything from the dangers of lead dust, to personal protection gear, to securing areas of renovation and proper clean up. You have to take a test at the end to acquire your certification, and here in Washington every worker that will be disturbing paint in your home is required to be certified. The penalty for not being certified (in construction, not as a homeowner) and not abiding to the proper procedures is $37,500 per day.
I was the only female and the only non-construction professional in the course, but I now not only know how to do things right during my own DIY renovations, but also what procedures need to be followed when I hire work out.
If you live in a home that was built before 1978, the chances of it having lead-based paint are 7 out of 10 and get higher as the age grows. If it remains undisturbed under years of layered paint then it causes absolutely no harm, but if you are planning on sanding or tearing things down it's best to know how to do things correctly so it is safe for you and your family.
There is a lot of information out there, and courses you can take to dive a little deeper. This goes for dealing with asbestos as well.
Here is some info to get you started:
Getting your house tested: Know where the lead is and where it isn't before you start your project. There are EPA approved DIY test kits that you can purchase, including 3M Lead Check Swabs and the D-Lead Test Kit. If you want results that are 100% accurate, you can hire a lead abatement company to come over and test with an XRF gun.
Knowledge is Power: If you are interested in finding out more information, you can start by going to the EPA's website and catch up on some of their renovate right brochures online. Here is another great pamphlet from the Australian Environmental Agency.
Learn First-Hand: If you want to really get into it, you can take a hands-on course like I did. I took mine at Argus Pacific in Seattle. You can look up places in your hometown that give courses or call the EPA lead hotline for more help.