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Nanotechnology is the controlling of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally nanotechnology deals with structures of the size 100 nanometres or smaller. Nanotechnology has the potential to create many new materials and products with a vast range of applications, such as in medicine, electronics, and energy production.

Nanotechnology involves the:

  • design, characterisation, production and application of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size at the nanometre scale
  • manufacture of nanoparticles or nanomaterials with at least one dimension less than 100 nanometres to give them useful chemical, physical, electrical or optical properties.

Normal office paper is about 100 000 nm thick and you can fit about 1 million nanoparticles on a pinhead. One strand of hair is about 50 000 nm thick.

The small size and some of the unique properties of engineered nanomaterials have raised concerns that there might be implications for human health and safety.

What laws apply

Does workplace hazardous chemicals legislation apply to engineered nanoparticles?

Are nanoparticles dangerous?

A cautious approach should be applied to nanotechnology process as there is insufficient information regarding the health effects of nanomaterials and uncertainty about whether nanomaterials should be classified as hazardous chemicals.

Nanotechnology in the workplace

Eight steps must be used for assessing and managing the potential risks from nanomaterials and engineered nanoparticles

Classification of engineered nanomaterials

Manufacturers and importers must ensure that their nanomaterials are classified according to hazardous chemicals (hazardous substances/dangerous goods) classification criteria.


A list of definitions describing the meaning of various nanotechnology terms.

Risks of nanoparticles

To manage the risks of nanoparticles, employers need to understand the hazardous properties of products which contain engineered nanomaterials, potential for exposure to engineered nanomaterials which may be harmful, and effectiveness of workplace controls to either prevent or minimise exposure.

Assessment tool for handling engineered nanomaterials

An assessment tool developed for Australian organisations handling engineered nanomaterials.

Nanomaterial control banding risk assessment

To assist with risk management, a Nanomaterial control banding tool worksheet document has been developed by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland based upon a nanomaterial control banding approach.

Register of nanomaterial use and storage

A register must be maintained if the nanomaterial is classified as a hazardous chemical according to Work Health and Safety Regulations.

Last updated
21 August 2017

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