August 18, 2015

Follow-Up Audit of Nanoscale Materials Safety at the Department's Laboratories

In February 2008, the Office of Inspector General reported that the Department of Energy (Department) and its laboratories had not always employed nanoscale materials precautionary measures in the areas of medical surveillance, workplace exposure monitoring, training, and engineering controls (Nanoscale Materials Safety at the Department's Laboratories, DOE/IG 0788).  This occurred because the Department relied upon each separate laboratory to develop and implement protective measures, and it had not provided laboratories with comprehensive guidance on what specific procedures should be followed.  In response to the audit, in May 2011, the Department issued Department Order 456.1, The Safe Handling of Unbound Engineered Nanoparticles.

This follow-up audit found that the Department and its laboratories have made progress in ensuring the safe handling of nanomaterials; however, opportunities for improvement remain.  In particular, each of the four Department laboratories we visited had established procedures for the safe handling of nanomaterials to satisfy Departmental requirements.  However, we noted that actions at three of the four sites were not always consistent with locally established procedures.

The issues we identified primarily occurred because the laboratories did not consistently follow their own procedures regarding the safe handling of nanomaterials at their non-NSRC (Nanoscale Science Research Center) facilities.  Most of the exceptions we observed occurred at older facilities or research facilities outside of the NSRC.  Furthermore, although the Department had established requirements for the safe handling of nanomaterials, it had not established specific requirements for managing and tracking the inventory of nanomaterials.

Topic: Management & Administration