IRSST - Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail

Best Practices Guidance for Nanomaterial Risk Management in the Workplace

  •   January 08, 2016

The Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) just published the second edition of its "Best Practices Guidance for Nanomaterial Risk Management in the Workplace”.

This guide is meant to support the safe development of nanotechnologies by bringing together cutting edge knowledge on hazard identification, strategies for determining nanomaterial levels in different work environments, risk assessment and the application of various risk management approaches. Some knowledge of occupational hygiene is required to use this guide effectively. Designed for all work environments that manufacture or use nanomaterials, this guide provides practical information and prevention tools for the safe handling of nanomaterials in laboratories and pilot plants as well as industrial facilities that produce or incorporate them.

To be effective, risk management must be an integral part of an organization’s culture, and health and safety issues must be considered when designing the workplace or as far upstream as possible. This is crucial for good organizational governance. In practice, risk management is an iterative process implemented as part of a structured approach that fosters continuous improvement in decision-making and can even promote better performance. The purpose of this guide is to contribute to the implementation of such an approach to the prevention of nanomaterial-related risks only. Depending on the process, other risks (associated with exposure to solvents, gas, heat stress, ergonomic stress, etc.) may be present, but they are not addressed in this guide.

The authors recommend a preventive approach designed to minimize occupational exposure to nanomaterials. Given the different exposure pathways, the many factors that can affect nanomaterial toxicity and the health risks, the proposed approach is essentially based on hazard identification, different risk assessment strategies and a hierarchy of control measures, incorporating knowledge specific to nanomaterials when available. Risk assessment makes it possible to select processes, equipment and work methods that reduce occupational exposure, in particular by controlling nanomaterial emissions at the source. It also makes it possible to select collective and individual preventive measures and to determine administrative management measures and training needed to protect all workers—operators as well as those who maintain equipment and workspaces.

This second edition incorporates new information in the scientific literature. In addition, appendices have been included describing initiatives in Québec workplaces; examples of at-risk situations described in the literature; preventive measures and data on their relative efficacy; and the implementation of measures to control exposure. Finally, the authors note that solutions for any particular workplace must be developed on a case-by-case basis taking into account the risk assessment of each workstation.

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Communications and Knowledge Transfer Division – IRSST
Phone: 514-288-1551, ext. 302