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NIOSH publishes guidance on nanotechnology workplace design

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Washington — NIOSH has released four guidance documents intended to “provide options” for employers to better protect workers exposed to nanomaterials.

Nanomaterials – materials that have at least one dimension (height, width or length) that is smaller than 100 nanometers – are chemical substances whose microscopic size gives them properties they do not possess in their larger form. These properties are used in numerous commercial products to strengthen them, make them weigh less, or keep them colder or hotter.

So recent is the commercial use of nanomaterials – approximately the turn of the century – that data on their long-term health effects and guidance for worker safety is limited. NIOSH states that workers exposed to nanomaterials may inhale nanoparticles, posing a potential respiratory hazard.

To help employers minimize exposures during common processes and tasks, the agency published:

“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,” agency Director John Howard said in a March 12 press release. “The information contained in these new workplace design solution documents provide employers with strategic steps toward making sure their employees stay safe while handling nanomaterials.”

Each workplace design document offers tips on the design, use and maintenance of exposure controls for production, post-processing and use. The poster is designed to guide workers on how to prevent exposures to nanomaterials.

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