Other Hazards & Risks

Other Hazards & Risks

In the last 30 years have undergone major global transformations in the work processes, resulting in the reduction of the workforce in industry sector, while services have become one of most significant sectors of the economy. These transformations have influence on occupational safety and health, more specifically in the new ways and methods of work in which the hazards and risks are still unknown or that there are still uncertainties about the danger, being the technological advancements and innovations one of the main reasons of these changes.

Nanotechnology is the understanding and manipulation of matter on a small scale, usually between 1 and 100 nanometers (nm). This matter, typically called nanomaterials have unique physical, chemical and biological properties, with a variety of potential applications in workplaces related to automotive, aeronautics and space sectors, chemical or pharmaceutical laboratories, construction, manufacturing facilities, energetic, medical offices or hospitals, food industry and cosmetics.


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggest a hierarchy of controls to reduce the worker’s exposure to the hazards of nanotechnology, with NIOSH integrating PtD concepts (Prevention through Design) in it, as elimination and substitution of the hazards. Nevertheless, both consider the integration of engineering and administrative controls and use of personal protective equipment.

the engeneering controls:

  • work in ventilated and insulated compartments
  • when ventilation/insulation is not possible, work with local exhaust ventilation, where both should be equipped with HEPA filters

the administrative controls:

  • training of the employees regarding their workplace (what type of hazards they are exposed to and where, manipulate and storage methods, and contamination procedures)

Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary science that integrates mechanics, electronics and computer technology. The aim of mechatronics is the creation of simpler, economical and reliable products, from just a computer hard drive to automation and robotics.
The appearance of mechatronic systems allowed the making of new safety systems embedded in the machine.
The advancements in the industry brought and keeps bringing new machines to the workplace, integrating them with the workers. Programmed to do repetitive tasks, these machines lack the perception when to stop when something unforeseen occur. The embedded safety systems permit that the machines have some perception of their surrounds and their integration with the workers, stopping when something that were not supposed happened.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defined by John McCarthy, considered the father of AI, as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs”. In other words, AI is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.
Some examples of AI technology are: automation (robotic automation), machine vision, machine learning, speech, planning, expert systems, robotics, natural language processing (NLP).

AI & the working world:

Since the past decades AI has been increasingly changing the workplace by introducing machines and robotics that replace human work. Indeed the replacement and reduction of the workforce is one of the major consequences of AI. The current challenge is to predict risks and develop safety plans for workers involved with AI integration. In this scenario, hazard assessment will benefit from multidisciplinary teams capable of understanding and reviewing AI systems.

Nanotechnologies Risks have

multiple causes

Related with potential risks associated with the size of the particles.

and have multiple


Being aware of the data limitation and uncertainty concerning its side health effects, nanoparticles may:

Damage the lungs

Get in to the body through the skin, respiratory tract and/or digestive system

Affect the immune system

mechatronic or robot accidents have

multiple sources:

Which can be mechanical, electronic, chemical or in what concerns to artificial intelligence

the risks associated with mechatronic systems are divided into:

loss of synergy


  • mechanical risk: failure of mechanical components
  • electronic risk: power failure, short-circuit, electronic component fault, failure of the sensor system
  • software risk: occurrence of an accidental logical error, intentional or unintentional program change (virus, operation), incorrect data input

    loss of synergy

  • The interconnection of the individual component is a major aspect in the assessment of mechatronic risks. The destruction of the system can be caused by an incorrect evaluation of minor faults that are difficult to detect in a component.

the prospected benefits & negative effects

of AI are:

the prospected benefits & negative effects

applications & prospected benefits
prospected negative effects / consequences

applications & prospected benefits

The main applications of AI in society and working world are in Healthcare, Business & Manufacturing, Education, Finance, Law.


  • improvement of patient diagnosis and outcomes; emergence of online chatbots to assist patients and virtual health assistants; development of systems to manage and analyse health research, enhancing medical access to information and improving decision making

Business & Manufacturing:

  • development of automation applied to repetitive tasks performed by humans; incorporation of robots in work processes; creation of chatbots to assist customers


  • creation of automatic grading and possibilities of assessing students needs; provision of AI virtual tutoring; redefinition of learning places and strategies


  • emergence of robo-advisors and automated trading


  • development of intelligent software through machine learning and expert systems to assist data mining and shifting, offering lawyers and judges more time available to devote to more valuable work

    prospected negative effects / consequences

  • Unemployment
  • Lack of privacy
  • Inequality
  • Instability

Safety Wear:

    Personal protective equipment (gloves, respirators and protective clothing). Concerning the personal protective equipment, its suggested the use of:

  • |
  • Long pants and long-sleeved shirt

  • |
  • Laboratory coats or coveralls

  • |
  • Nitrile gloves

  • |
  • Closed-toe shoes made of low-permeability material

  • |
  • Safety googles

  • |
  • Respirators


The need to review/set maximal limits of exposure for toxic substances, including nanomaterials


Be aware of some specific exposure limits already set *


To include a list of requirements pertaining to the correct use of air filters and ventilations systems when handling nanotubes


A “safer by design” approach to minimize the nanomaterial exposure

* Worker exposure to respirable carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers not exceed 1.0 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average, based on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
* Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that worker exposure to nanoscale particles of TiO2 not exceed NIOSH’s 0.3 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3 ) REL. By contrast, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends for fine-sized TiO2 (particle size greater than 100 nm) 2.4 mg/m3”.


Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field and the safety issues are complex and workers must be up to date and trained to operate equipment


Follow laboratory/work area safety rules and wear adequate safety equipment to operate machines


Workers should operate in a “buddy system”, never operating equipment alone

The following safety rules were adapted from Newton C. Braga (2001):

mechanical causes

these accidents are usually caused by gears, wheels, grippers or other moving parts that can cut, stab or crush body parts

  • #1

    Shield any potentially hazardous moving part

  • #2

    Use sensors to detect any abnormal operation of a robot that may create an accident

  • #3

    Be certain that the project is free of dangerous parts

  • #4

    Study the environment in which the device will operate

electronic causes

some safety rules are recommended to protect workers from shock and other hazards caused by electrical and electronic part failures

  • #1

    Include emergency switches for shutting down all power supplied to the circuit

  • #2

    Protect all areas where high voltages are present

  • #3

    Include fuses or current limiting circuits

  • #4

    Use doble protection for critical circuits

  • #5

    If the devices or circuits of the mechanism may cause injury, be sure that it is only operated under controlled conditions and install redundant protective devices for shutting it down

chemical causes

  • #1

    Follow the basic safety rules to prevent accident with chemical substances

artificial intelligence causes

  • #1

    Employ the same rules concerning circuits, software and mechanical parts

It is a rapidly emerging field with little information regarding safety and health hazards.

chess table with chess pieces and a player making a move

did you know that...

AlphaZero, the game-playing AI created by Google and DeepMind, has beaten the world’s best chess-playing computer program?
AlphaZero taught itself how to play chess in under four hours before beating Stockfish 8, the world champion chess program, in a 100-game match up.

white robot with a structure similar to a human (head and body) looking with his big 'eyes' directly to the camera

did you know that...

Scientists have programmed machines to be curious and explore their surroundings on their own?
This capability could allow robots to learn even faster and foster the ability to think ahead!

Time to discuss about other hazards and risks!

Let’s find out more about OSH in other fields and in society. Are you ready to research and debate about Nanotech and Artificial Intelligence?