When people think about workplace safety, they commonly refer to best practices for preventing injuries in dangerous working environments, such as mine shafts, construction sites, and warehouses. Conversations about workplace safety usually do not include environments where nano-materials are being used. However, as an increasing number of products include these materials, the importance of maintaining proper safety protocols becomes important.
In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released new guidelines for the control of nano-materials. NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard explained to the media how prudent it is to protect workers exposed to such materials from "potential adverse health outcomes."
The recommendations touch upon a number of controls in the production process, including ventilation protocols such as dust suppression methods, isolation tactics and exhaust ventilation. They also discuss updates with regard to chemical resistant work materials (i.e. gloves and body suits) as well as protective masks. Further, guidelines are set forth regarding the handling of nano-powders and maintenance tasks.
We find the NIOSH recommendations important because they may serve as method of determining whether an employer failed to use reasonable care in creating a safe work environment for employees. If, for example, an employer is not in compliance with these recommendations, and a worker is injured while in the normal course of his employment, the employer could be held liable and be exposed to a lawsuit.
Because of this, it is important for employees working with hazardous materials (whether it involves nano-materials or not) to be aware of your employer's safety guidelines.
Source: GOIAM.org, "NIOSH releases new nano-material control recommendations," November 13, 2013