Safety on the Smallest Scale: NIOSH Offers Safe Work Practices for Nanomaterials

While many EHS professionals focus on the big picture when it comes to safety, some settings must address safety on a smaller scale. A much, much smaller scale. In a nod to the miniscule materials that could impact occupational safety and health in a big way, NIOSH has released a guidance document outlining safe work practices for nanomaterials.

The document, "General Safe Practices for Working with Engineered Nanomaterials in Research Laboratories," raises awareness of the occupational safety and health practices necessary during the synthesis, characterization and experimentation using engineered nanomaterials in a laboratory setting. It provides the best information available on engineering controls and safe work practices, including:

· Hazard identification to understand the characteristics of nanomaterials that may pose a risk.
· Exposure assessment with attention to the characteristics of nanomaterials that can influence exposure.
· Hierarchy of controls consistent with good industrial hygiene practice (including engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment).
· Control banding.
· Management of fire potential and spills.
· Occupational health surveillance.

"Guidance for laboratory researchers was a key information gap identified by stakeholders," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "This paper illustrates that the research community is at the front line of creating and testing engineered nanomaterials and provides a scientific basis for responsible development of nanotechnology."

The research is based on input from several subject matter experts and initiated as a joint effort under a Memorandum of Understanding between NIOSH and the Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) and one of its member campuses University of Massachusetts, Lowell. It is designed to be used in tandem with well-established practices and a laboratory’s chemical hygiene plan.

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