Nanotechnology involves the precisionengineering of materials at the atomic, molecular and supramolecular scale. At this nanoscale unique and enhanced properties occur. This has led to the development of new and improved products, procedures and processes and the identification of many valuable uses of enabling nanotechnologies.
In some circumstances engineered nanomaterials may give rise to health and safety concerns.
To improve the understanding of engineered nanomaterials and ensure nanotechnology is covered by work health and safety regulations the Nanotechnology Work Health and Safety Program (2007-13) was implemented. This program supports the Australian Government's National Enabling Technologies Strategy and contributes to the global efforts on nanotechnology work health and safety. Through this program Safe Work Australia provided policy direction, conducted research and provided guidance on the potential work health and safety implications from applications of nanotechnology.
In 2012-13 Safe Work Australia published commissioned research reports and associated information sheets on:
- classification of carbon nanotubes as hazardous chemicals
- safety hazards of engineered nanomaterials
- measuring and assessing emissions of nanomaterials from processes, and
- emissions of nanomaterials during machining processes.
Safe Work Australia also contributed to national and international activities promoting nanotechnology work health and safety including:
- Presenting a seminar series on nanotechnology work health and safety to Engineers Australia members with jurisdictional representatives.
- Coordinating Australian input to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Working Party for Manufactured Nanomaterials on exposure measurement and mitigation.
- Collaborating with Queensland University of Technology and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland to draft a report on measurement of nanomaterials in air.
- Providing papers to the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals on nanomaterials.
- Publishing articles on nanotechnology work health and safety in Australian Manufacturing Technology, the Barents Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety and the Asian-Pacific Newsletter.
- Chairing the Standards Australia's Nanotechnologies Committee and Head of Australia's Delegation to the International Standardization Organization's Nanotechnologies Technical Committee.
In 2014 Safe Work Australia will:
- complete commissioned projects including nanotechnology work health and safety training materials.
- participate on relevant Australian and international working groups and standards committees, and
- participate in international activities1 by promoting nanotechnology work health and safety through articles and publications.
For more information on the Nanotechnology Work Health and Safety Program (2007-13), the Australian Government's National Enabling Technologies Strategy or to access the guidance or to access the guidance material and research reports visit the nanotechnology page.