The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – the government agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries and illnesses – has rolled out some tools to enhance the safety of those working in nanotechnology.
This relatively new science has exploded in popularity in recent years, as scientists and engineers find more and more uses for engineered nanomaterials, which may be stronger and more lightweight and offer increased control of light spectrum and greater chemical reactivity than their larger-scale counterparts of the same composition. These very small particles (less than 100 nanometers) are now used in medicine, electronics, biomaterials, and consumer products.
Because they are very small particles, nanomaterials pose a respiratory risk to workers, who may inhale them on a daily basis unless employers take steps to reduce exposure.
Four new products introduced by NIOSH this week are intended to help companies do just that.
“Researching, developing, and utilizing 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 minimizing 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 poster poses 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 poster 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 https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nanotech/pubs.html