Occupational Health & Safety

Australia Considers Control Banding for Nanomaterials

A report released Aug. 2 by Safe Work Australia evaluates two possible approaches for using control banding to ensure safety when working with nanomaterials but admits workplaces there have little knowledge of it.

Safe Work Australia released a report Aug. 2 evaluating two possible approaches for using control banding to ensure safety when working with engineered nanomaterials and also the feasibility of establishing Australian National Exposure Standards for them. The report acknowledges workplaces in Australia have little knowledge of control banding, however.

The approaches are the Control Banding Nanotool specifically designed for control of nanomaterials and one based on guidance in BSI British Standards' December 2007 publication "Nanotechnologies – Part 2: Guide to safe handling and disposal of manufactured nanomaterials."

"Control banding is particularly favourable to the control of chemical hazards where there is limited toxicological information and workplace exposure limits are absent as is currently the case with engineered nanomaterials," the report states. "However, in general, Australian workplaces do not have wide experience of using the control banding approach for other hazards and this situation is likely to remain so until there is impetus nationally to accept the control banding approach in support of State, Territory and Commonwealth regulations. Therefore, if control banding is to be used, it should be used in combination with the conventional approach towards the assessment and control undertaken in the current jurisdictional regulations, including those existing for human carcinogens."

According to the report, there is a perceived need for guidance on how to safely handle, control, and dispose of nanomaterials in industry, but there are no Australian guides for safe handling and control of specific engineered nanoparticles that can be incorporated into the country's current legislative framework. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia's largest national science agency, is developing guidance for safe handling and disposal of carbon nanotubes for Safe Work Australia.

It says no data are available on the number of employees working with nanomaterials globally or in Australia. The report also says more than 1,200 nanotechnology companies, universities, government laboratories, and organizations are working in the United States, compared with 300 nanotechnology companies reported in Europe as of 2007 and 75 nanotechnology research organizations and around 80 nanotechnology companies in Australia, also as of 2007.

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