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August 18, 2015

UK Report Assesses Workplace Exposure and Control Measures During the Manufacture and Handling of Engineered Nanomaterials

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prepared a report entitled Summary of work undertaken to assess workplace exposure and control measures during the manufacture and handling of engineered nanomaterials.  The report notes that HSE and HSL attempted to identify and engage with companies that manufactured or used nanomaterials, but only four volunteered to take part in this project.  The report cautions that the observations represent a limited data set, and need to be understood in this context and not overgeneralized.  The objectives were to visit companies to assess exposure to airborne nanomaterials during their manufacture, handling, and use, and to assess the effectiveness of the controls used to reduce exposure to nanomaterials.  The key findings include:

  • An increased understanding of some of the tasks and activities undertaken during the manufacturing, handling, or use of nanomaterials and the potential for exposure to airborne nanomaterials;
  • Existing good hygiene control practices can be used to reduce exposure to airborne nanomaterials;
  • An exposure monitoring strategy suited to small businesses to monitor emission of airborne nanomaterials was evaluated and found to be practical and cost effective;
  • The company Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) assessments were not specific to nanomaterials and all of the assessments reviewed could have been improved;
  • An effective risk management assessment strategy could include a combination of a simple exposure monitoring approach and an occupational hygiene assessment of the process and the controls; and
  • There is not enough evidence yet to propose a measurement methodology that should be used to underpin separate specific occupational exposure limits (OEL) for nanomaterials if these were to be proposed.