Nanotechnology and Hazardous Waste Worker Training: Preview of the NIEHS White Paper

About a year ago, I cold-called a program manager at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences  (NIEHS) to inquire about a new grant solicitation on hazardous waste worker training that I thought might be appropriate for my work with the GoodNanoGuide. Chip Hughes was friendly and approachable even as he told me he didn’t think our program was a good fit for this particular grant.When I began to explain a little more about our work on nanotechnology and occupational health, he got very interested and pulled up the GoodNanoGuide website during our phone chat. By the time the call was over Chip had invited me to participate in a panel on nanotechnology and control banding at the NIEHS Worker Education and Training Program’s annual awardees meeting in October 2009.

This was my first deep introduction to the hazardous waste worker trainer population and I learned a great deal about the challenges and strategies of communicating with people who deal with toxic materials every day. The hazardous waste worker population is very diverse with a range of educational and disciplinary backgrounds and trainers must understand the particular learning styles and needs of this community to be effective . Fortunately, I was not expected to know anything about training hazardous waste workers as I had been invited in as an expert in nanomaterials.

The panel I participated in was chaired by Dr. Bruce Lippy of The Lippy Group, an industrial hygienist with deep experience in developing and delivering training on worker safety. Joining me on the panel were Rick Niemeier of the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) and Sam Paik from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The subject of control banding is generating increasing interest in the nanotechnology environmental, health and safety impacts community. Put simply, control banding is a qualitative approach to risk assessment that provides guidance on occupational practice in the absence of established occupational exposure limits. The appeal of this commonsense approach is that it is based upon the nature of a specific occupational task and a few easily characterized features of the material being handled during the task. For example, an industrial hygienist might assess the dustiness or volatility of the nanoparticle, the duration of the task and the hazard profile of the non-nanoscale analog.The output is typically a rating the indicates the level of control needed to minimize exposure, ranging from general ventilation, total enclosure , or use of personal protective equipment, to a recommendation to seek expert advice for the most dangerous  operations. Applying control banding to nanotechnology workplaces makes a lot of sense to some occupational professionals as a potential stopgap approach to risk management until quantitative exposure limits have been established.

I came away from the ensuing roundtable discussion with the strong sense that this community was looking for more in-depth information about nanotechnology and that there were few resources out there targeted to them particularly. Apparently, others felt the same way because Bruce Lippy and I were asked to write a white paper that could be freely distributed throughout the community via the WETP National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training. At long last we have produced a working draft of the document, which runs to 48 pages. The draft has been sent out for review to a number of key stakeholders and I eagerly await their feedback so we can improve and finalize the document. Bruce has been great to work with and I look forward to taking the next step of developing a set of training materials based on the concepts of the white paper.
Here’s an outline of the paper in its current form:

Training Workers on Risks of Nanotechnology
1. Purpose and overview
1.1 Purpose of this document
1.2 Outline
2. Introduction to nanotechnology and nanoparticles
2.1. Definitions
2.2. Quantifying the size of the industry and affected workforce
2.3. Nanoparticles’ environmental, health and safety impacts
3. Application of traditional risk management approaches to protect workers handling nanoparticles
3.1. Most likely exposures among NIEHS representative groups
3.2. Assessing exposures
3.2.1. Difficulty with the standard IH paradigm
3.2.2. Absence of a Permissible Exposure Limit
3.2.3. Approaches used by NIOSH to count particles and measure surface area
3.2.4. Results from limited sampling
3.3. Controlling exposures
3.3.1. Hierarchy of controls
3.3.2. Ventilation
3.3.3. HEPA filtration
3.3.4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
3.3.5. Controlling safety hazards like fire potential
3.3.6. Hazard communication for nanoparticles
4. Regulatory and voluntary approaches specific to nanoparticles
4.1. Pro-active efforts of the federal government compared to past
4.2. Review of government regulatory actions
4.2.1. Overviews
4.2.2. Nanoparticles as toxic substances
4.2.3. Nanoparticles as pesticides
4.2.4. Nanoparticles as workplace toxicants
4.2.5. Regulations at the local level
4.3. Voluntary approaches
4.3.1. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
4.3.2. International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
4.3.3. ASTM International
4.3.4. NanoRisk Framework
4.3.5. Control banding
5. Resources
5.1. Broad array of materials available on government and academic websites, particularly NIOSH for workers
5.2. Possible teaching techniques involving web resources
5.3. Free training materials or graphics, animations: image gallery of nanoparticles
5.4. Possible posting on Clearinghouse website of PowerPoints focused on worker issues as well as control banding tools from Sam Paik
6. Suggested training program
6.1. Limited literature
6.1.1. Module 1: Introduction to nanotechnology and nanoparticles
6.1.2. Module 2: Environmental, health and safety impacts of nanoparticles
6.1.3. Module 3: Application of traditional risk management approaches to protect workers handling nanoparticles
6.1.4. Module 4: Regulatory and voluntary approaches specific to nanoparticles
6.2. Outline for 8-hour HAZWOPER refresher
6.2.1. Purpose
6.2.2. Module 1: Introduction
6.2.3. Module 2: Environmental, health and safety impacts
6.2.4. Module 3: Application of traditional risk management approaches to protect workers handling nanoparticles
6.2.5. Module 4: Regulatory and voluntary approaches specific to nanoparticles
6.3. Value of NIEHS Minimum Criteria in structuring nanoparticles training for workers

Resources on Nanotechnology and Worker Health

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