Health and safety guidelines issued for working with nanomaterials

20 September 2012

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has published the first-ever health and safety guidance for working with nanomaterials in research and development.

Nanotechnologies offer potentially huge benefits to society, industry, the environment and health, but in a new and fast-moving field, the risks and safety of working with many of the materials are not well known. The guide, produced by the UK NanoSafety Partnership Group and funded by IOSH and the Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA) looks at an array of topics, including risk management, toxicology, exposure control and health surveillance.

Jane White, research and information services manager at IOSH, said: “As nanotechnologies continues to progress, there’s a need to protect those who are working with them. Still, nanotechnology remains a relatively new field, and as with all new technologies and techniques, novel and unique risks may arise as different applications are developed.

”This guide provides a foundation for occupational health and safety in this fast-moving industry. It gives essential advice to employers, managers, health and safety advisors, and anyone who uses nanomaterials in a research and development context.”

June Freeland, chair of the UK NanoSafety Partnership Group and coordinator of the guidance, said: “It’s recognised that activity in the nanotechnology field is expanding more rapidly than the availability of safety guidance and as a result of sector demand, this guidance document was produced.

“One of the aims of the guide is to be consistent with global guidance being produced by other nations, and this has been achieved through regular contact with the authors of similar documents. Hopefully by addressing the potential risks now the advice given in this guidance, will mitigate the possible risk of work-related health disease that in the future may be identified and associated with nanomaterials.”

The new guidance applies to a broad set of nanomaterials that include nano-objects such as nanoparticles, nanopowders, nanofibres, nanotubes, nanowires, as well as aggregates and agglomerates of these materials.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has endorsed the document. Judith Hackitt, chair of the independent watchdog, said: “HSE welcomes the launch of this guidance aimed at research establishments and academia. There are many benefits and innovative opportunities offered by nanomaterials. Understanding and managing the possible risks they may pose is vital to enabling them to be developed to their full potential.

“HSE will continue to work with partners to ensure that the health and safety risks to employees working throughout the nanotechnologies development and supply chain are identified and properly controlled as the technology and applications continue to evolve."

Further information

The guide, Working Safely with Nanomaterials in Research and Development, is available at:


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