WHO Evidence-based OSH Guideline on Nanomaterials


WHO published its first evidence-based OSH guideline in the beginning of December. This guideline deals with protecting workers from potential risks of nanomaterials. The guideline is underpinned by ten systematic reviews that are also available on the WHO site. FIOH and Cochrane Work substantially contributed to the development of the guideline.


Interesting aspects of the guideline include the use of bridging to assess hazards of nanomaterials, OELs for nanomaterials and the use of control-banding for nanomaterials.

New Risks Facing Workers in Manufacturing

Workers in all countries face new risks from manufacturing applications of rapidly advancing new technologies based on nanometer-scale atomic structures known as nanomaterials. The World Health Assembly identified the assessment of health impacts of new technologies, work processes and products as one of the activities under the Global Plan of Action on Workers Health, adopted in 2007. The WHO's network of Collaborating Centres for Occupational Health have, since, selected manufactured nanoparticles as a key focus of their activity.

To address occupational risks of nanomaterials, WHO is developing guidelines on "Protecting Workers from Potential Risks of Manufactured Nanomaterials" (WHO/NANOH). These guidelines aim to facilitate improvements in occupational health and safety of workers potentially exposed to nanomaterials in a broad range of manufacturing and social environments. The guidelines will incorporate elements of risk assessment and risk management and contextual issues. They will provide recommendations to improve occupational safety and protect the health of workers using nanomaterials in all countries and especially in low and middle-income countries.

The process for guideline development includes the following steps:

  1. Establish a Guideline Development Group (GDG) and an External Review Group, which reflect the diversity of manufactured nanomaterials and manufacturing processes on the global scale and the cultural differences in workplace safety. The GDG oversees important elements in the guideline development process such as drafting guideline text, while the External Review Group is tasked with critical review of the scientific evidence and of the text of the guidelines.
  2. Prepare a background document proposing content and focus of the Guidelines. This background document is used by the GDG to identify key questions to be addressed by the Guidelines.
  3. Prepare systematic review papers for each key question.
  4. Conduct an external peer review of the guidelines and release the guidelines to the public.
  5. Conduct an implementation phase of the project encompassing preparation of a user-friendly implementation guide and pilot implementation projects in selected countries.

WHO is in the process of finalizing systematic reviews and preparing draft guidelines recommendations. Once the external peer review of the guidelines is completed, a public meeting launching the guidelines will be held. We invite you to check this web-site regularly for the announcement of the date of this public meeting.