By Will Soutter
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)’s new literature review has reported that there is a lack of awareness about the possible risks associated with the handling of nanomaterials at the workplace and serious gaps in the method of communicating these risks to workers.
EU-OSHA discovered that around 54% of Europeans have no idea at all about nanotechnology. Their awareness level is alarmingly low not knowing even whether nanomaterials are found in their workplaces. For instance, 75% of employers and workers in construction do not even know that they are working with the nanomaterials.
Some initiatives have been taken to make awareness about the risks of produced nanomaterials and the ways of managing these materials, for instance by key manufacturers, national dialogues within some Member States, some trade unions, the European Commission through Europe-wide communication roadmap.
However, more initiatives need to be taken preferably together by policymakers, public health agencies, national occupational safety and health bodies, the social partners, sectoral associations, and much more because poor communication may result in confusion, unjustified fears or underestimation of the associated risks, which in turn leads to insufficient risk prevention and control.
Risk communication strategies have to assist employers take informed decisions for workplaces, equip workplaces with adequate prevention measures, and to allow workers to achieve personal control of their own environment to get adequate protection.
EU-OSHA has created an on-line database of good workplace management of produced nanomaterials, which includes eight Member States and various industries, including medical, construction and textiles. Moreover, a short and practical information material and web feature on nanomaterial risk management tools and for managing risks of nanomaterials in healthcare, construction and maintenance.