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December 16, 2015

IRSST Publishes Best Practices Guidance for Nanomaterial Risk Management in the Workplace

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On December 11, 2015, the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), a leading occupational health and safety research center in Canada, published the second edition of its Best Practices Guidance for Nanomaterial Risk Management in the Workplace.  IRSST intends the Guidance to support the safe development of nanotechnologies in Québec by bringing together current scientific knowledge on hazard identification, strategies for determining nanomaterial levels in different work environments, risk assessment, and the application of various risk management approaches.  IRSST states that the Guidance 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.  The Guidance recommends a preventive approach designed to minimize occupational exposure to nanomaterials.  According to IRSST, given the different exposure pathways, the many factors that can affect nanomaterial toxicity and the health risks, its approach “is essentially based on hazard identification, different risk assessment strategies and a hierarchy of control measures, incorporating knowledge specific to nanomaterials when available.”  The second edition of the Guidance incorporates new information in the scientific literature.  In addition, IRSST has included appendices 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.  IRSST notes that “solutions for any particular workplace must be developed on a case-by-case basis taking into account the risk assessment of each workstation.”