IRSST issues best practice guide for nanomaterials in the workplace

The Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) has issued an updated guide to support the safe development of nanotechnologies in the workplace.
The guide brings 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. 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, said IRSST, which is based in Montreal.

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," the authors said. "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, as well as those who maintain equipment and work spaces."

This second edition of the Best Practices Guidance for Nanomaterial Risk Management in the Workplace 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 work station.