Please be aware that this is a machine translation from French to English. AVICENN is not responsible for incorrect or inaccurate translations but welcomes suggestions for reformulation.

WatchNanos - What legal framework for nanomaterials at work?

What legal framework for nanomaterials at work?

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What legal framework for nanomaterials at work?

By AVICENN Team – Last Modified May 2022

In France

Since January 1, 2013, companies and research organizations must complete a mandatory declaration of "substances in nanoparticle state" manufactured, imported or placed on the market in France, which comes in addition the r-nano register.
Almost ten years after its creation, it is high time to add to the reporting form the requirement for data on the number of exposed workers, which is currently poorly understood by public authorities and prevention specialists.

Since 2016, nanos have been included in the Occupational Health Plan (PST). The theme of emerging risks and nanomaterials is included for the first time as a focus in the PST 3 2016/2020. In the PST 4 2021/2025, several actions concern nanomaterials:

  • action 2.1 plans to better understand professional exposure and multiple exposure to nanomaterials and to carry out toxicological studies on their dangers and mechanisms of action according to the routes of exposure (particularly the dermal route)
  •  action 10.2 provides for the optimization of systems for monitoring and monitoring occupational risks (including EpiNano)

But from a legal point of view, to date, there are no specific regulations for the protection and safety of workers exposed to nanos1See in particular:
– Afsset, Nanomaterials, Safety at workMay 2008
– DGT, Ministry of Labor, Occupational Health Plan 2010-2014 (PST2), October 2010

According to the French authorities, however, there is no "legal vacuum" insofar as “nanoparticles come under all labor code regulations relating to the prevention of chemical risk in particular the provisions relating to the prevention of risks linked to dangerous chemical agents (ACD) and, where applicable, those applicable to dangerous chemical agents that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR) of category 1 or 2″2Response of the French authorities to the public consultation "Towards a strategic nanotechnology action plan (SNAP) 2010-2015"March 2010. However, the French authorities have acknowledged that “Efforts must be continued to (…) create regulatory instruments of European or even international scope”3Response of the French authorities to the public consultation "Towards a strategic nanotechnology action plan (SNAP) 2010-2015"March 2010.

If a judge were to be seized in the event of exposure to danger or damage to others, the legal liability of the employer could be sought on two grounds (if the constituent elements of the offenses are met):

  • criminal responsibility: the offense of deliberately endangering others (art. 223-1 criminal code) or a serious fault which exposed others to a risk of a particular gravity that the perpetrator could not ignore (art. 121- 3 paragraph 4 penal code);
  • civil liability: the employer has caused damage to others; he may see his civil liability sought.

At the European level

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), 2019
  • La framework directive on the safety and health of workers at work (89/391/EC, known as the 1989 framework directive) represents the legal framework for the protection of workers in the workplace. It does not contain no specific provisions on nanomaterials, but specifies that the responsibility for the safety and health of workers rests with the employer. It makes appropriate training for workers part of the employer's obligations and these provisions should apply to nanotechnology. Employers must ensure that each worker receives adequate and regularly updated information and training on health and safety, as well as instructions specific to their work.
  • Article 10 of the chemical agents directive (98/24/EC) establishes a more detailed framework for health surveillance including requirements for the introduction at national level of individual health and exposure records.
  • In its occupational health and safety policy framework (2014-2020), the European Union has set itself the challenge of "fighting against existing and new risks (nanomaterials, biotechnologies, etc.)"4Le European Union strategic framework for health and safety at work (2014-2020), European Commission, June 2014, page 7: "Although a large number of new technologies and innovations in the organization of work have significantly improved the well-being and working conditions of workers, it is important, in order to effectively prevent work-related diseases, to anticipate the negative effects new technologies on the health and safety of workers. New technologies applied industrially correspond to new products and processes, which must be tested and controlled until we have the assurance that they are safe and do not involve major risks either for consumers or for the workers. Nanomaterials are a good illustration of this problem, in that they are likely to have properties that may require the use of new toxicity testing methods and new risk prediction tools to properly address safety aspects, starting at the product development stage. ».

A question, a remark ? This sheet produced by AVICENN is intended to be supplemented and updated. Please feel free to contribute.

The next nano appointments

Unnoticed and ungoverned: How nanomaterials are slipping through the cracks (ECOS, Brussels and online)
Brussels and online
  • Hybrid event (face-to-face and online)
  • Organizers: Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS), Friends of the Earth Germany (FEDERATION)
  • Speakers: representatives of the European Commission, civil society and research  
  • Website :…
NanoSafe conference 2023 (CEA, Grenoble)
  • 8th International Conference on Health Issues for a Responsible Approach to Nanomaterials
  • June 5-9, 2023
  • Organizer: Commissariat for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies (CEA)
  • Website :…  
How the world deals with Materials on the Nanoscale – Responsible Use and Challenges (OECD-BMUV, Berlin)
  • International conference from June 22 to 23, 2023
  • Organizers: OECD, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV)
  • Website :…

This listing was originally created in July 2015

Notes & references

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