Australian Agency Backs Control Banding for Nanomaterials

This approach is the correct risk management process because data are lacking for the risk potential of individual engineered nanomaterials, but there is some understanding of hazards posed by different groups of nanomaterials, Safe Work Australia said in a new report.

Safe Work Australia has posted a pair of new reports examining risks of engineered nanomaterials, with the new agency endorsing control banding as the right risk management approach at this time for them. "The risk management process that is proposed for research and early development activities involving nanomaterials, is that of 'control banding,' where similar control measures are used within categories of nanomaterials that have been grouped ('banded') according to their exposure potential and hazardous properties, i.e. grouped according to risk," the main report's executive summary states. "Control banding is considered to be an appropriate method because of the current lack of data available for the risk assessment of individual nanomaterials but there is some understanding of hazards posed by different groups of nanomaterials e.g. CNTs [carbon nanotubes]."

Titled "Engineered nanomaterials - Evidence on the Effectiveness of Workplace Controls to Prevent Exposure," this report reviews current understanding of the toxicology and health hazards associated with engineered nanomaterials during manufacture, handling, and use. It is based on scientific literature published in 2006-08 and updates a previous review by the Australian Safety and Compensation Council.

U.S. industrial hygiene associations and hygienists have been using and discussing control banding as a strategy for years. The NIOSH topic page on control banding is here, and information about an AIHA working group on the subject is available here.

The report said evidence indicates a range of PPE "can provide some level of protection" to workers, including N95, N100, or P100 respirators. N95s and N100s correspond approximately to P2 and P3 Australian respirators.

"Doublegloving using nitrile type gloves and the use of other garments of non-woven fabrics (e.g., Tyvek polymeric material) can also provide protection," the report states. "The use of PPE should be considered as the last line of defence in the hierarchy of workplace exposure mitigation approaches, after all other available measures have been implemented. PPE should also be worn on a precautionary basis whenever the failure of a single control, including an engineering control, could entail a significant risk of exposure to workers. PPE will also be needed in situations where the use of engineering controls is impractical. PPE is usually implemented in combination with other control measures, e.g. process enclosure, extraction and administrative controls."

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