Cover: Nanomaterial Safety in the Workplace

Nanomaterial Safety in the Workplace

Pilot Project for Assessing the Impact of the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center

Published Nov 3, 2015

by Eric Landree, Hirokazu Miyake, Victoria A. Greenfield

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Research Questions

  1. How can the Nanotechnology Research Center assess its contribution to improving the safety and health of workers who could be affected by the products of nanotechnology?
  2. Using the established method, in what ways are NTRC efforts improving occupational safety and health for nanotechnology workers?

In August 2014, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) asked the RAND Corporation to help develop and apply a method for assessing the center's contribution to improving the safety and health of workers who could be affected by the production, use, reuse, or disposal of the products of nanotechnology that are of greatest concern to workers, such as engineered nanomaterials. The purpose of the project was to develop a method that would help NTRC — and other NIOSH components — get beyond conventional bibliometric and patent analysis and closer to societal benefit or outcomes, in part by looking to the gray literature, professional events, and stakeholder outreach for supplemental evidence. Using a logic model, this report outlines a method for NTRC to collect, organize, and assess information related to its program efforts and how they are contributing to NIOSH's desired outcome of reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities associated with occupational exposure to engineered nanomaterials. Based on our pilot study, we identified several plausible paths by which intermediate customers may use NTRC outputs to contribute to NIOSH's mission, and we highlighted the role of NTRC field research teams in contributing to changes in workplace practices and procedures.

Key Findings

RAND's Logic Model Compiles Information and Reveals Contributions

  • The RAND Corporation's logic model process uses literature and stakeholder interviews to identify NTRC's program efforts (inputs, activities, and outputs), transfer mechanisms, and program effects (customers, intermediate ouputs, intermediate outcomes, and end outcomes).
  • Directly engaging with NIOSH stakeholders was critical for assessing, modifying, and refining the NIOSH NTRC logic model, providing context and details about how NTRC's outputs are being shared and circulated among intermediate customers and contributing to intermediate outcomes.
  • Based on our pilot study, NTRC field research teams appear to be especially useful at contributing to changes in workplace practices and procedures, introducing controls, and conducting on-site monitoring and assessments.

Recommendations

  • Given the limited scope of our pilot effort and the relatively small number of stakeholders that we spoke with, a more comprehensive review of NTRC across industry sectors, critical topic areas, and engineered nanomaterials or nanotechnologies is necessary to more fully characterize the breadth and scope of the program's impact.
  • NTRC could use this report as a point of departure to develop a more comprehensive set of metrics to help drive the identification and collection of data for assessing contributions to outcomes. This type of information could be used to help provide insights into which NTRC outputs are more successful at contributing to outcomes, as well as what factors may be affecting that success. That information could then be used to inform NTRC's pursuit of support for various outputs and transfer mechanisms.

The research reported here was prepared for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and conducted in the RAND Safety and Justice Program, a part of RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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