Safe work with nanomaterials

Published: 10/09/2015

The potential risks of working with and using nanomaterials are the subject of a new training course. With the growth of the nanotechnologies industry globally, an increasingly diverse range of products are being created that use nanomaterials to improve qualities such as their strength, durability and absorbency. There currently exist, however, gaps in knowledge about the health risks associated with nanomaterials, which are manufactured and used at a microscopic scale and can be many thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. This has led IOSH to fund the creation of a new training course that promotes safe working practices with nanomaterials. The course has been developed by IOM Singapore, a subsidiary of the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), and aims to give laboratory staff, students and safety and health professionals at universities and other research and development facilities a good understanding of approaches towards safe and healthy working in labs where nanomaterials are used or produced. IOSH Singapore Branch member Michael Riediker received more than £20,000 from the Institution’s Development fund to create the Safe Laboratory Work with Nanomaterials course. Michael, who is Director of SAFENANO Operations at IOM Singapore, said: “It is current belief that nanomaterials can enter the body by being breathed in, ingested or injected. Research has also found that some nanomaterials are long biopersistent fibres, which can lead to health concerns similar to asbestos fibres. “There is gap in knowledge about how the nanomaterials are transported once inside the body and the ways they interact with the body’s biological systems. While work is underway to fill the gaps, it is key that workers understand the physical and chemical characteristics of a nanomaterial before beginning work with it.” The new IOSH-accredited training course is based on internationally recognised best practice from the UK Nanosafety Group and techniques used by leading nanomaterial research institutions. It takes delegates through theory on health risk exposures and particle characteristics, how to determine exposure potential and laboratory safety rules, before participants complete practical exercises that highlight the challenges when working with nanomaterials. Michael said: “This training course gives people good lab protection systems, including how to identify and correctly wear personal protective equipment. “We provide a simple scheme to classify the risk by categorising the hazard and exposure likelihood. If you come up with a conclusion that the material is extremely hazardous you should treat it with maximum protection.” Michael taught the course for the first time at Nanyang Polytechnic in Singapore on Wednesday 12 August. The course is open to researchers and other staff working in laboratories with nanomaterials, as well as safety and health practitioners who need to carry out risk assessments and provide support to those working in such environments. Mary Ogungbeje, Research and Development Adviser at IOSH, said: “The very nature of nanomaterials is quite challenging for safety and health practitioners, and even those who are experts in using them, because we don’t know enough about them. “This course is about equipping researchers, other laboratory staff and occupational safety and health practitioners with the confidence and abilities to carry out their work in a safe way.” Further information about booking a place on the Safe Laboratory Work with Nanomaterials course is available at www.iom-world.sg . Published: 10-09-15