SENATOR Kim Carr, in an address to the ACTU OHS and Workers’ Compensation Seminar on Nanotechnology, talked about OHS in the face of developing technology.
According to Senator Carr, Australian workers can expect to encounter more nanomaterials in the production environment and in workplaces.
Senator Carr reinforced the Government’s determination to achieve a balance between occupational health and safety and leadership in nanotechnology.
Nanotechnologies are being used to develop sensors to make workplaces safer, clean energy solutions, treatments for diseases, and new techniques to increase agricultural productivity in the face of dwindling water supplies.
Senator Carr says the Government is developing answers to the occupational health and safety concerns regarding nanotechnology by engaging in dialogue with the community. Unions, for example, are represented in various nanotechnology advisory groups and forums.
The Australian Government is also supporting research to improve understanding of how nanoparticles behave, examining the adequacy of the existing regulatory framework, and determining whether workplace control measures are equal to the challenge of dealing with nanomaterials.
The National Enabling Technologies Strategy will provide $18.2m to build biometrology and nanometrology capabilities at the National Measurement Institute.
This will develop measurement infrastructure, standards and skills, essential for measuring the exposure of workers to nanomaterials.
Regarding carbon nanotubes, the Senator says current research indicates these should be handled with great care. Workers should remain vigilant until more is known.
The Government has asked the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme to assess whether carbon nanotubes should be classified as hazardous substances. This will be completed by August 2010.