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Basic Steps to Protect Individuals Working with Nanomaterials

The authors of Safe Work Australia’s report on “Engineered Nanomaterials: Evidence on the Effectiveness of Workplace Controls to Prevent Exposure“ “recommend that workplace controls for reducing exposure to engineered nanomaterials should involve a combination of engineering controls, administrative controls and as a last line of defense, PPE (i.e., personal protective equipment), if the higher order options of elimination and substitution are not appropriate for the specific engineered nanomaterials in question . . . .”1

“The engineering controls should initially involve the highest order control measure of enclosing the process, coupled with extraction ventilation/LEV and suitable filtration of exhaust air before it enters the external environment. Generally exhaust air should be HEPA-filtered to ensure that nanoparticles are removed. Existing ventilation systems that are effective for extracting ultrafine dusts in other industries should also be employed where appropriate. These should be installed, tested and maintained in accordance with American Conference of Governmental Industrial Ventilation guidelines (ACGIH 2001) to maintain optimal efficiency in removing nanoparticulates. Less engineering control measures would be required for specific processes involving nanomaterials embedded in matrices that do not result in shedding of nanoparticles. A limitation on the use of engineering controls is that there are a number of workplace scenarios where their use is impractical. Protection for workers then relies on Administrative controls and, as a last line of defense, PPE.”2

Administrative controls are always options that can be used in order to further reduce the potential for worker exposure. These have been discussed previously . . ., and there are several standard OHS methods by which these measures can be implemented, e.g. job rotation, and processes occurring when workers are not present. The PPE should consist of a filter-based facemask respirator N95 (corresponding to P2 Australian type, see Table B), efficiency or above, or SCBA if required, double gloving using glove materials that are resistant to penetration by engineered nanomaterials, together with other protective garments that are made of non-woven fibre (e.g. not cotton). One of the main concerns is to ensure that facemasks and SCBA items go through a proper fitting regime for each worker to ensure integrity of the protection during their operation. Further issues with PPE lies in worker comfort with prolonged use, and identifying how frequently to change PPE.”3

“Taken together, all of these controls should provide a robust regime through which nanomaterials exposure to workers will be reduced to very low levels.”1

1. Safe Work Australia, “Engineered Nanomaterials: Evidence on the Effectiveness of Workplace Controls to Prevent Exposure,” at 54 (Nov. 2009)(copyright Commonwealth of Australia reproduced by permission).

2. Safe Work Australia, “Engineered Nanomaterials: Evidence on the Effectiveness of Workplace Controls to Prevent Exposure,” at 54 (Nov. 2009) (citing American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists: Industrial Ventilation – a manual of recommended practice (2 Volumes) (2001)) (copyright Commonwealth of Australia reproduced by permission).

3. Safe Work Australia, “Engineered Nanomaterials: Evidence on the Effectiveness of Workplace Controls to Prevent Exposure,” at 54 (Nov. 2009)(copyright Commonwealth of Australia reproduced by permission); see id., at 49 (administrative controls discussed in the report include “limiting the process to specified areas; limiting access to areas; reducing time spent in possible exposure areas (e.g. hot areas); and reducing the number of personnel that may be potenitally exposed”) (copyright Commonwealth of Australia reproduced by permission).