Duration: 36 months
Budget: approx. 3.7M€
EC Grant: 2.5M€
Starting date: 01/06/2012
Small or medium-scale focused research project FP7
Manufactured nanomaterials and nanocomposites are being considered for various uses in the construction industry and related infrastructure industries, not only for enhancing material properties and functions but also in the context of energy conservation. Despite the current relatively high cost of nano-enabled products, their use in construction materials is likely to increase because of highly valuable properties imparted at relatively low additive ratios, rapid development of new applications and decreasing cost of base MNMs as they are produced in larger quantities.
Recent studies suggested that workers handling with nano-products mostly worked with cement or concrete products, coatings or insulation materials. Other product types, including road‐pavement products, flame retardant materials or textiles, were only indicated by some. However, a survey developed by FIEC and EFBWW (2009) showed that the majority of construction workers and their employers (~75%) are not aware that they work with nano-products.
Occupational exposure to these emerging risks may be accidentally or incidentally produced at different stages of the construction industry life cycle. Due to the novelty, these same nano-products might pose new health and safety risks to the worker on‐site, which scientists are only just starting to understand. Detailed information about the product composition and their possible nano-specific health and safety issues though, is generally lacking and the information available to the raw material manufacturer is often lost while stepping down the user chain. As a consequence, for the average construction company it will be very difficult to conduct a proper risk assessment and organize a safe workplace for its employees.
Despite the potential risks, the use of nano-products in the construction industry is a reality and can be expected to grow in the near future (Technology is always working ahead of risk). Consequently, there is a general uncertainty with respect to health and safety risks and how to properly manage them to protect workers and be in compliance with OHS legislation. This calls for a new approach for dealing with uncertainties, providing construction companies with new strategies, methods and tools to appropriately manage these emerging risks.