Laboratory Safety and Nanotechnology Workers: an Analysis of Current Guidelines in the USA
Although some regulatory frameworks for the occupational health and safety of nanotechnology workers have been developed, worker safety and health issues in these laboratory environments have received less attention than many other areas of nanotechnology regulation. In addition, workers in nanotechnology labs are likely to face unknown risks and hazards because few of the guidelines and rules for worker safety are mandatory. In this article, we provide an overview of the current health and safety guidelines for nanotechnology laboratory workers by exploring guidelines from different organizations, including the Department of Energy Nanoscale Science Research Centers (DOE-NSRC), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Texas A&M University (TAMU), and University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UML). After discussing these current guidelines, we apply an ethical framework to each set of guidelines to explore any gaps that might exist in them. By conducting this gap analysis, we are able to highlight some of the weaknesses that might be important for future policy development in this area. We conclude by outlining how future guidelines might address some of these gaps, specifically the issue of workers’ participation in the process of establishing safety measures and the development and enforcement of more unified (and mandatory) guidelines.