18 Dec 2022


Creating a Safe Workplace - Guidelines for Employers

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In any organization, the employees expect their workplace to be safe so that they can work efficiently. However, it has been established that some workplaces are more hazardous than others are. A hazard would thus be used to refer to something that can put the health of an individual at risk. Notably, many consumer products in the market have more than 1,000 nanomaterials (NIOSH, 2013) . These products include paints, makeup, clothing, electronics of different types, and food storage products. As more nanomaterials circulate in the market and workplace, it would be necessary for producers of engineered nanomaterials to ensure that the work environment is safe and healthy. Therefore, in this article, attention shall provide its discussions on engineered nanomaterials, exposure control strategies, nanotechnology processes, hazard control procedures and the health risks associated with exposure. 

Background and Industry Overview of Engineered Nanomaterials 

Broadly speaking, nanotechnology refers to the engineering and skillful use of materials at molecular levels. This novel technology entails the creation of materials with measures ranging from 1-100 nanometers (nm). Materials with such minute dimensions are usually referred to as nanoscale materials. Notably, particles that have been created using this technology show variation in both physical and chemical properties compared to larger particles of similar material. The nanoparticles manufactured in this manner are known as engineered nanoparticles. Therefore, engineered nanoparticles refer to the materials that have been created through the manipulation of matter at a nanospace (NIOSH, 2013) . There is also a particular type of engineered nanoparticles called the unbound engineered nanoparticle (UNP). This refers to those engineered nanoparticles that cannot be made immobile within a polymer matrix. In that case, the particles would remain suspended in the form of an aerosol or a liquid hence making them be unbound. 

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It is important to note that most engineered nanoparticles often remain bound to the polymer matrix hence they can also be referred to as bound engineered nanoparticles. Nevertheless, nanoparticles have smaller dimensions that make them have a larger surface area to volume ratio. This feature implies that they have the capability of penetrating cells with ease as opposed to larger particles. Nanomaterials are grouped based on their physicochemical characteristics or their structure (NIOSH, 2013) . Presently, four groups of materials that are composed of nanoparticles have been identified. That includes carbon compounds, ceramics, metal and their oxides. Notably, the most common form of engineered nanomaterials that has been produced and used include nanometer forms of metals like gold, metal oxides like titanium dioxide (TiO 2 ) . Silica, silver, and natural clays have also been utilized for that purpose. Nevertheless, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) form a peculiar nanomaterial that is currently under investigation to establish the varied applications in which it can be put to use. 

Exposure Control Strategies 

Employees can be protected from workplace hazards if plans are set to monitor their exposure to the dangers. Typically, there are five ways in which that can be effected. The methods will be discussed in order of decreasing magnitude in relation to controlling the exposure to hazardous compounds in any nanotechnology company. The methods comprise of substitution, elimination, engineering control, administrative checks and finally, the utilization of personal protective equipment (PPE). First, elimination is the most efficient method to be implemented when a process is being designed. This process entails eliminating procedures would expose an employee to hazards. Such methods may involve inspection of equipment for nanomaterials. 

The second process that is integral when ensuring worker safety in a nanomaterial-filled environment is a substitution. This control entails replacing a particular set of conditions that risks the health of an employee with a different set of conditions that will have minimum health effects to the employees. For instance, in a nanomaterial slurry can be replaced with a dry powder form to prevent aerosolization. That would provide workers with some protection while handling the nanomaterial. Thirdly, engineering controls are the other strategy that eliminates hazardous conditions from a workplace. It involves setting a barrier between the worker and the harmful compounds. Restrictions of this type ensure that a safe distance is maintained between the worker and the hazard. 

Under the engineering control method, the ventilation system is also considered. Notably, this mechanism of control requires an organization to have a robust ventilation system that guarantees air filtration. Besides, other non-ventilation methods such as isolating containment system and continuous liner system are taken into consideration. For instance, the linear system has been designed such that the product containers are filled while the material is enclosed in a polypropylene bag. In that case, a worker cannot get close to the nanomaterial product. A well-designed engineering control should not interfere with the production process. Rather it should make the operation easier. Engineering control may appear to be expensive in the short run. However, in the end, the service cost would be small hence acting as a cost-saving strategy for the organization (NIOSH, 2013)

The administrative control is usually used in processes that have already been established. They are vital, especially when engineering control measures cannot cease exposure to hazards. In other words, it should be used as a backup plan just in case the engineering control fails. Notably, the management would be required to play a crucial role in ensuring that the nanomaterials do not affect the employees (NIOSH, 2013) . In that respect, the administration will be expected to inform the employees about how to handle such materials, the need to wash hands before eating, and the properties of the hazard among others. The final control measure entails the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is considered as the last resort when the engineering and administrative controls fail to work. Under this method, the employees will be expected to wear protective gears that would guarantee skin and respiratory protection. 

Nanotechnology Processes 

Nanomaterials are manufactured using vast techniques that would determine their shapes, size as well as chemical composition. Notably, there are six processes relating to nanotechnology. The first process is the gas phase processes. In this process, is characterized by the growth of nanoparticles through the nucleation of a highly saturated vapor. Nanoparticles will be formed at elevated temperatures during this process. Secondly, there is chemical vapor deposition. During this phase, a chemical vapor is formed after a series of processes such as pyrolysis, reduction, and oxidation (NIOSH, 2013) . The final product is a thin film of nanomaterial. TiO 2 and CNTs were produced using this methodology. 

The third method is referred to as the colloidal or rather the liquid phase. The chemical processes take place in solvents that result in the creation of colloids. Notably, solutions of various ions are mixed to form insoluble precipitates. Mechanical process marks the fourth process. This phase involves grinding break the material into smaller pieces. This process is also known as nanosizing or rather a ultrafine grinding. The fifth method is known as the atomic and molecular beam epitaxy. In this process, there is deposition of one molecule thick layers of alternating materials. This process is used for fabricating conductors. Finally, the sixth step is called the dip pen lithography. It involves the deposition of a chemical on a substrate surface using an atomic force microscope. 

Hazard Control Evaluation 

Various methods can be used to evaluate the exposure and emission of nanomaterial. To begin with, it would be imperative to establish the potential emission sources. That would be helpful for researchers to find out means to devise control measures. Second, it is important to take measurements to determine the concentration of nanoparticles in neighboring work areas. Later, the quality of air at the workplace needs to be determined by taking samples from various air filters and analyzing them for the nanomaterials (NIOSH, 2013) . Finally, the air can be assessed for velocity and pattern to establish the location where sampling ought to be done plus identifying the level of outdoor contamination. 

Health Hazards Associated with Exposures 

The effects of nanomaterials have not been confirmed in humans. However, research using laboratory animals indicate that these substances pose significant health risks. For instance, studies show that the exposure of animals to TiO 2 and CNTs leads to pulmonary inflammation (NIOSH, 2013) . Other studies indicate that nanoparticles can enter the bloodstream and flow to the brain thereby causing oxidative strain. The worst research results indicated that particular types of nanoparticles initiated toxicological responses in mice. That is an implication that the effects posed to animals can also be felt in human beings. 

Conclusions and Recommendations 

Engineered nanomaterials refer to nanomaterials that are manufactured intentionally. They have small measurements ranging from 1-100nm. These materials show greater diversity from their parent molecules. Most of the traits are desirable which makes them peculiar and useful during certain processes. However, owing to their properties, these materials also raise health concerns once an individual is exposed to them. That is the reason why it is important for employers in this sector to ensure that they protect their employees from exposure to such compounds. 

In order to control the hazards posed by nanomaterials, the organization will have to prioritize engineering control method. That implies that the organization ought to install fume hoods, safety cabins, and bag dump stations among others. A careful use of these control measures would guarantee the safety of the organization’s workers against hazardous compounds. 


National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (2013). Current strategies for engineering controls in nanomaterial production and downstream handling processes . Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DHHS, Publication No. 2014–102. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Creating a Safe Workplace - Guidelines for Employers.


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