Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have published new information to protect researchers, lab staff, janitors, and others who are potentially exposed.
The benefits of nanotechnology are seemingly limitless, according to NIOSH. It lists everything from improved disease diagnoses, treatment technologies, and the creation of more efficient products to improve methods in water purification or energy conservation.
But research suggests exposure to nanomaterials may interfere with lung function and other organs and possibly cause systemic effects. Nanoparticles may be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed by workers.
A new NIOSH guidance paper suggests employers implement a comprehensive risk management program, including specific engineering controls and safe work practices to be followed when working with engineered nanomaterials in research labs.Among them are:
- Hazard identification -- to understand the characteristics of nanomaterials that may pose a risk.
- Exposure assessment -- focusing on the characteristics of nanomaterials that can influence exposure.
- Exposure control -- consisting of a standardized hierarchy to include elimination, substitution, isolation, engineering controls, administrative controls, or personal protective equipment if no other option is available.
Engineering controls are identified as any physical change to the process that reduces emissions or exposure to the material being contained or controlled, such as ventilation. Administrative controls can limit workers' exposures through job rotation schedules that reduce the time someone is exposed. Personal protective equipment may include lab coats, impervious clothing, closed-toe shoes, long pants, safety glasses, face shields, and respirators.
The guidance suggests employers using nanomaterials in research labs develop a written health and safety policy covering all types of chemical and physical hazards in the workplace; a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities for everyone involved; effective procedures for documentation, communication, and employee training; and incorporation of input from safety professionals, industrial hygienists, and occupational health professionals, as appropriate.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
July 23, 2012
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