WHO Publishes Guidelines to Protect Workers from Nanomaterials

Posted on: January 18, 2018

by Caroline Miller, CIH, CSP 

In December 2017, the World Health Organization published guidelines to protect workers from manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs).  The WHO Guidelines on Protecting  from Potential Risk of Manufactured Nanomaterials provides the following recommendations: 

  • Assess Health Hazards of MNMs

Classify MNMs according to Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals and include the information in the safety data sheet (SDS). 

  • Assess Exposure of MNMs 

Assess employees’ exposures in accordance with the MNM occupational exposure limit (OEL) or proposed OEL. If not available, then assess according to the proposed exposure assessments by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or Comité Européen de Normalisation (the European Committee for Standardization, CEN). 

  • Control Exposure to MNMs 

Control inhalation exposures to MNMs as low as feasible.  Employ the highest level of controls to avoid worker exposure.   

  • Health Surveillance 

The guidance for MNM health surveillance will be updated in five years, as it was not provided due to lack of evidence. 

  • Training and Involvement of Workers 

Training and involvement of employees in MNM health and safety issues is the best practice. No method was identified due to absence of findings.  

The guideline provides two useful resources:  Table 2 provides GHS classifications of MNMs that have an OECD dossier and Annex 1 provides proposed OELs for MNMs.  

With the topic of MNM health and safety developing rapidly, the guidelines will be updated in 2022.  


Who Guidelines on Protecting Workers from Potential Risks of Manufactured Nanomaterials (2017)



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