Nanotechnology in Malaysia: A qualitative study about the current occupational health and safety issues

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Maryam Etemadi, Akbariah Mohd Mahdzir


In Malaysia, nanotechnology (NT) entered the nation, infrastructural advanced technology since 2001. A careful description of the health monitoring and health and safety audit protocol is important for creating a consistent roadmap towards feasible health and safety risk management. In 2018 Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) presented the nano-material guideline for control and safe handling that contains only some of the main concepts of safe handling of nanomaterials (NMs) at related workplaces. Nevertheless, how this guideline should be implemented in the workplace still remains in the shadow of ambiguity, which is a result of the lack of policy framework for governance and execution of this guideline. Hence, this study concentrates on the current health and safety management situation, with special emphasis on health surveillance and health and safety audits in both academia and industrial NT workplaces. To this end, four key objectives are chosen by the authors of this research to be discussed and investigated: i) Current health monitoring procedure for nano-workers in different nano work environments in Malaysia, ii) Current situation of implementing health and safety audit procedure in nano workplaces in Malaysia, iii) Current health risk assessment and management concerns for nano-workers, and iv) Current health and safety assessment procedure of nano-workers and NT governing agencies opinions about these issues. Furthermore, the IRGC framework is employed to address these objectives.

In the present study, the qualitative approach by using semi-structured interviews and also document analysis procedures conducted. The data then analyzed through the thematic analysis process.

The findings of this study indicate that: i) NT workplaces of today’s Malaysia are suffering from a misunderstanding of the definition of health risk in NT workplaces, which requires enlightenment by providing a comprehensive policy for this matter, ii) There is indeed an immense need for a specialized training program with a focus on handling and utilization of NMs, iii) At the moment consolidated health risk records NT workplaces are missing, iv) There is a serious need to formulate and ease the communication complications between NT workplaces and the governing agency in Malaysia.

In short, the current health and risk management procedure for nano-workers in Malaysia is unclear; as yet, no defined framework and policy proposed for the DOSH’s recently published guideline. Presenting a specified procedure for safe handling and utilizing of NMs in the workplaces, developing training programs to improve the workers' knowledge about the occupational hazardous impact of working with NMs, outlining a clear protocol for nano-workers health records, and finally improving the communication between different NT involved parties are the main suggestions of this study. The field of NT came a long way in Malaysia, yet there is much remained to be discovered and developed, alongside the rest of the world.


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