01:17 pm, Wednesday 11 July, 2012
Over the years, Safe Work Australia has been actively involved in research on work health and safety concerns on nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is described as the manipulation and control of matter in the nanoscale and has a lot of uses. According to Safe Work Australia, nanoscales range from approximately one nanometre (one billionth of a metre) to 100 nanometres.
Numerous concerns on work health and safety have been raised about the properties associated with nanomaterials, particularly those related to laser printer particle emissions and carbon nanotubes.
To address these concerns, Safe Work Australia started two research projects and the results of these were recently released.
Laser printer particle emissions
A research was conducted to investigate the potential impact exposure to laser printer particle emissions has on workers’ health. Results showed that laser printer particle emissions vary between printers. According to the research report, even where higher emitting printers were in place the majority of nanoparticle exposure to workers in a day did not come from printers but from other sources like vehicle emissions.
The research discovered that the risk of direct toxicity and health effects from exposure to laser printer particle emissions for most people is negligible. It is however noted that people responsive to unusual or unexpected odours may react to presence of emissions.
Despite the findings, workers are still advised to minimise their exposure to laser printer particles. The report also provides tips on how offices can examine and control printer particle emissions in their workplaces. Safe Work Australia developed an information sheet to support this advice.
A publication addressing health concerns on carbon nanotubes was also released by Safe Work Australia. Carbon nanotubes are a type of nanomaterial with particles that can be fibre-like, which means that few forms of these can have structural similarities with asbestos and could pose similar risks.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) was commissioned to develop information on how people can safely work with carbon nanotubes in workplaces.
This work is part of Safe Work Australia’s efforts to offer policy direction, conduct research and provide guidance on the potential implications of nanotechnology to work health and safety.