New nanotechnology workplace design recommendations
- Realising the promise of any scientific advancement requires understanding of its potential human health effects, and its safe and responsible development, even at the level of engineered nanomaterials, which can be nearly atomic-sized. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) launched four new products this week intended to provide options to companies for controlling possible exposure of their workers to nanomaterials on the job. Engineered nanomaterials are intentionally produced to have at least one primary dimension less than 100 nanometers (nm). These materials unique shapes and physical and chemical properties. These materials become desirable for specific product applications in areas including medicine, electronics, biomaterials, and consumer products. Workers in industries that use or make these uniquely engineered nanomaterials may inhale nanoparticles on a daily basis, posing a potential respiratory hazard. “Researching, developing, and utilising these nano properties is at the heart of new technology, just as worker safety is at the heart of what we do at NIOSH,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “The information contained in these new workplace design solution documents provide employers with strategic steps towards making sure their employees stay safe while handling nanomaterials.” The four new documents provide helpful recommendations on minimising exposures during common processes and tasks, including:
- handling and weighing of nanomaterials when scooping, pouring and dumping;
- harvesting nanomaterials and cleaning out reactors after materials are produced;
- processing of nanomaterials after production;
- working with nanomaterials of different forms, including dry powders or liquids.
Each workplace design solutions document provides key tips on the design, use, and maintenance of exposure controls for nanomaterial production, post processing, and use. The posters pose questions that employers and workers should consider before starting work with a nanomaterial. For each question, the poster provides options to reduce exposures to nanomaterials based on the physical form. The posters can be displayed in a lab or work environment, making it an easily accessible reminder of the important health and safety considerations for working with nanomaterials. To access the products, and for more information about nanotechnology research at NIOSH, please visit the NIOSH website.