When we think of the many products we use these days, such as microwave popcorn, makeup and sunscreen and computers, we may not give much thought to how the materials are produced. Specifically, we may not be cognizant of the nano-materials that are used in creating these products. Nevertheless, an increasing number of things include nano-materials; including food storage products, clothing, and various coatings (i.e. paints and sealants).
With this, workers who assist in the production of these products are invariably exposed to dust-like materials that can have an adverse effect on them over the course of time. As such, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published recommendations on how workers who work with (and can be exposed to) nano-materials can avoid dangerous health implications.
The newest recommendations were recently published and made available to the public. Titled “Current Strategies for Engineering Controls in Nanomaterial Production and Downstream Handling Processes,” the new guidelines touch upon a number of production points where workers could be exposed to harmful substances. They include engineering controls (e.g. exhaust ventilation and suppression methods), as well as protective materials (e.g. chemical resistant gloves and respiratory protection).
We find these recommendations to be particularly important in an employer’s continuing duty in protecting workers. An employer is tasked with taking reasonable steps to ensure employees are not unduly exposed to hazards. If an employer fails to do so (by not employing the NIOSH protocols) and an employee is injured, the employer could be held liable beyond the confines of workers’ compensation liability.
Source: GOIAM.org, “ NIOSH releases new nano-material control recommendations,” November 13, 2013