Nanotechnology: Redefining Workplace Safety

Nanotechnology's revolution for the global economy can also revolutionize public health, especially occupational health, return-to-work rehabilitation, and the delivery of workplace health services.

Sound occupational health programs that implement best strategies are the grease for the machinery of powerful economic engines. Information provided through occupational health programs helps employers survive because accidents and disease are not simply expensive but wasteful. No one can afford waste in this economy. The fat to be trimmed, however, is not the same as the grease for the wheels and machinery that makes smooth commerce. Using well-honed tools for in-house occupational health and safety compliance systems, therefore, can save the life of marginal employers despite a difficult economy.

Since 2008, an increasing body of international expertise has agreed that nanotechnology holds both great promise and unquantified, unknown major risks to workplace health. In 2012, several international organizations began the first steps towards making a harmonized system of nanotechnology regulation. This paper outlines those basic steps.

Scientists and governments agree that the application of nanotechnology to commerce poses important potential risks to human health and the environment, but the risks are unknown. Examples of high level respected reports that express this concern include: the Swiss Federation (Precautionary Matrix 2008), the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (UK 2008), German Governmental science commission, public testimony sought by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, Feb 2011), the OECD working group (since 2007), the World Health Organization (WHO), and several industrial groups, and various non-governmental organizations. Yet, qualitative data to protect exposed people and the greater ecological system that surrounds the human environment lags behind industrial use, research and application of nanotechnology to consumer products.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.