OSHA has not issued regulations for most nanomaterials, but that doesn't mean the agency is unconcerned about the hazards of working with these super-tiny particles.
So how small is "nano"? A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. And there are 25,400,000 nanometers in one inch.
A new publication offers valuable guidance.
Working Safely with Nanomaterials is a fact sheet intended to protect workers who use nanotechnology in research or production. According to OSHA, nanomaterials can have unique physical, chemical, and biological properties that make them useful in innovative applications like stain-free textiles.
However, as nanotechnology moves from the lab to industrial and commercial settings, workers and employers should be aware of the hazards and measures to control exposure.
Among workplaces that may use nanoparticles are chemical or pharmaceutical plants, manufacturing facilities, medical offices and hospitals, and construction sites.
In the fact sheet, OSHA recommends that employers check with makers of chemicals and materials they use to determine if unbound engineered nanomaterials are present. These materials are those easily dispersed, such as in powders or sprays, where the potential for health or safety hazards is greater.
You can download the fact sheet from the OSHA website at www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA_FS-3634.pdf. There’s more, including information about applicable standards, at the OSHA Nanotechnology Safety and Health topics page. Go to http://www.osha.gov and search for nanotechnology.