Welcome to the eighteenth edition of the Radiation Protection Adviser.
This is the last printed version for those of you who have access to the internet.
The Ionising Radiations Regulations (IRR99) came into effect nearly a year ago and seem to be working well. However, HSE is aware that some employers have had minor interpretation problems. The areas under IRR99 needing clarification are notification, prior risk assessment, dose constraints, RPAs, designation of areas, local rules, type approval and criticality hazards in the nuclear industry. The aim of this newsletter is to clarify these and update readers on any further developments in the field of ionising radiation.
Please send your comments and queries to:
Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Level 6, North Wing
2 Southwark Bridge
London SE1 9HS
HSE's Ionising Radiation web site: http://www.hse.gov.uk/hthdir/noframes/iradiat.htm
The following covers a number of issues where employers have sought advice from HSE.
Readers are reminded that employers must still comply with the Regulations, where appropriate, even if they are exempted from the need to notify work with ionising radiation under Schedule 1 of IRR99.
Prior risk assessment is a key part of IRR99, informing decisions such as the control measures needed for accident situations, contamination, pregnant workers, designated areas etc. Before IRR99 came into force, employers should already have carried out a 'suitable and sufficient' risk assessment in order to comply with regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR99).
It is important that the risk assessments are reviewed when there has been a significant change in the matters to which they relate, eg. new health and safety requirements such as IRR99 are introduced.
The essential difference relating to risk assessment between IRR99 and MHSWR99 is that anyone thinking of undertaking work involving ionising radiation must carry out a prior risk assessment. Therefore any new activity involving work with ionising radiation may not begin until the risk assessment has been made.
Dose constraints should be used at the planning or design stage as one of the tools for helping to restrict exposure. They should not be confused with or used as investigation levels, which all employers must set. Neither should they be used as a means for exposing employees to higher than necessary doses. The principle of reducing exposure to 'as low as is reasonably practicable' (ALARP) must always be followed.
HSE Criteria of competence for RPAs
HSE is planning to undertake research on the current skills base of RPAs (eg whether the use of health physicists is changing in a way that might affect the availability of future RPAs). This is to assess whether HSE's Criteria of Competence for RPAs will remain suitable for employers' future needs. HSE would welcome any expressions of interest from organisations wishing to participate in this research.
Transitional arrangements in IRR99 permit individuals or organisations that have held an RPA appointment under IRR85 to continue to be accepted as RPAs until the end of 2004.
HSE would like to remind RPAs that, although 2004 seems a long way away, to avoid delays in being re-certificated, RPAs should begin to consider what they need to do in order to meet the HSE Criteria of Competence requirements. These criteria are contained in a formal HSE Statement of competence for RPAs (copies are available from the editor and HSE's web site).
Revised N(S)VQ in Radiation Protection
The Employment National Training Organisation (ENTO) has taken over responsibility from the Occupational Health and Safety Lead Body and is responsible for the revision of the N(S)VQ in Radiation Protection. ENTO has recently redrafted this N(S)VQ and needs comments from RPAs to ensure that it meets their training needs.
The current N(S)VQ has been rewritten to meet the requirements of the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Essentially, the revised N(S)VQ has been rewritten in clearer English and provides greater clarity to RPAs on what they need to know to be competent.
Readers who are interested should visit ENTO's website at www.ento.co.uk to download the draft N(S)VQ. Readers can give feedback through the website to ENTO's review team. The deadline for comments on the draft N(S)VQ is 15 January 2001.
Appointment of RPAs
Employers are still notifying HSE when they appoint an RPA. Notifying HSE is no longer necessary under IRR99.
Until the end of 2004, employers may consult and appoint any RPA appointed by an employer under IRR85 provided the RPA is suitable for the employer's needs.
Consultation v appointment
HSE has been asked for clarification on whether IRR99 requires employers to always appoint an RPA following consultation. It is not necessary to do so if the employer was merely seeking advice from an RPA and it was found that their work did not require formal consultation. The aim when revising the RPA requirements was to place the emphasis on consultation rather than appointment. This establishes the principle that it will always be necessary to consult but appointment will only be required if an employer requires advice from the RPA in order to comply with the requirements of regulation 13 and schedule 5.
Some employers are uncertain about the requirements for designating a controlled area. Paragraph 248 of the IRR99 ACOP * gives advice on where special procedures are necessary. These would include designating an area as controlled where:
Employers are also unclear about when an area should be designated as supervised. The ACOP contains examples, but another example of where a supervised area would be needed is where work in a high risk area (i.e. where there is the potential for significant exposure) is prohibited and there is a need to regularly review the control measures to ensure that they are effective at keeping people out of the high risk area.
Work with Ionising Radiation - Approved Code of Practice, Regulations and Guidance. ISBN 0-7176-1746-7.
HSE is pleased to learn that employers have been actively using the guidance in the ACOP to make local rules more local, and therefore effective. However, some employers continue to use generic local rules for all situations. While this may be suitable for those areas where working practices are similar, generic local rules must be reviewed to ensure that they also contain the necessary information on radiation risks and the nature of operations undertaken in that area. HSE would encourage employers to review local rules on a regular basis to ensure they remain relevant.
It is the employer's duty to draw up local rules, not the radiation protection supervisor (RPS)'s. RPSs do not have any duties under IRR99. Their role is to help ensure compliance with the Regulations in areas which are subject to local rules .**
See HSE's information sheet No 6 - Radiation Protection Supervisors (copies available from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2WA. Tel: 01787 881165 Fax: 01787 313995)
Readers are reminded that type approval is not automatic for any apparatus that does not cause a dose rate of more than 1 microsievert per hour under normal operating conditions (see paragraph 1(c)(iii) under Schedule 1 of IRR99). A formal application to HSE is necessary if an apparatus needs type approval.***
Certificates of type approval have been issued under IRR99 for smoke detectors and safety signs or devices with gaseous tritium light sources.
See the HSE Statement on the type approval of apparatus, on our Ionising Radiation web site.
The serious consequences of ionising radiations arising from criticality in nuclear matter were demonstrated in 1999 following the accident at Tokai Mura in Japan. In the UK, employers who undertake risk assessments for this hazard usually work under the framework of the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (as amended) and associated licence conditions.
HSE has recently been asked to clarify whether IRR99 applies in this technical area. HSE has advised that IRR99 is applicable in the context of controlling risks from criticality. Employers, with advice from suitable RPAs, should satisfy themselves that the Regulations are being complied with for both licensed and non-licensed nuclear sites.
The main IRR99 regulations that are relevant are: regulation 7 - prior risk assessment; regulation 8 - restriction of exposure; regulation 10 - engineering controls; regulation 12 - contingency plans; regulation 23 - dosimetry for accidents.
Some small changes are planned to the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999, if the Health and Safety Commission and Ministers agree. These are:
Readers may be interested to note that the Air Navigation Order 2000 implements the requirements in the Basic Safety Standards (BSS) Directive that relate to the protection of air crew. The Civil Aviation Authority has responsibility for this legislation.
A partner in an industrial radiography company was prosecuted by HSE for 6 breaches of IRR85.
The company operated from a small unit on an industrial estate. X-rays were normally used, but on the day of the visit by HSE inspectors, a 260 Gbq Ir-192 source was present for gamma radiography.
An enclosure had been constructed inside the unit from plywood and 5mm thick lead. However, there was no lock on the door to the enclosure nor any interlock system to control exposure to the X-ray beam. There was also no emergency stop inside the enclosure and no effective warning system indicating when radiation was about to be, or was being, emitted.
A subsequent radiation survey while X-rays were being used inside the enclosure indicated significant leakage paths around the doors. The lack of a roof on the enclosure resulted in dose rates of up to 50 microsieverts per hour several metres away from the enclosure. The radiation shielding in the walls of the enclosure would have been totally inadequate if industrial gamma radiography had been carried out.
In addition to being charged with a breach of regulation 6 of IRR85, the partner was also charged with the failure to: notify HSE of work with ionising radiation (regulation 5); appoint an RPA (regulation 10); make and set down in writing local rules for the work (regulation 11(1)); make arrangements for medical surveillance of classified persons (regulation 16); monitor the levels of radiation around the enclosure (regulation 24).
The partner pleaded guilty to all charges and was fined a total of £2500. £1000 costs were also awarded against him.
In response to several prohibition and improvement notices served by HSE, an RPA has been appointed and, more importantly, consulted as to compliance with the Regulations (now IRR99). The enclosure has been fitted with effective devices to ensure persons are excluded, warning signals have been installed, and a shielded roof has been fitted. Monitoring and testing of the enclosure has now been carried out. Local rules have been written and issued, and arrangements for medical surveillance are now in place. The enclosure will no longer be used for gamma radiography.
Reasonably achievable standards of operation of such a radiography facility are covered in the IRR99 ACOP. Financial circumstances of the size of the operation are not acceptable reasons for failing to reach the standards of radiation protection required by IRR99; these standards are achieved or surpassed by the majority of radiation employers.
Consultation with a competent RPA would have undoubtedly disclosed all the failings discussed above, enabling the company to remedy the situation prior to the HSE inspection.
On 5 October 2000 BNFL was found guilty at Whitehaven Magistrates court and fined on the following 4 charges by failing to: comply with an Improvement Notice (IN) which had been issued for BNFL to improve and implement arrangements for the management and control of sealed radioactive sources in accordance with the requirements of IRR99; ensure that suitable tests were carried out at suitable intervals to detect leakage of radioactive substances from a radioactive sealed source as required by regulation 27(3) of IRR99; take steps to account for and keep records of the quantity and location of radioactive sealed sources as required by regulation 28 of IRR99; take steps to account for a radioactive sealed source as required by regulation 28 of IRR99.
The main issue of concern to HSE is that radioactive sources, if not properly controlled, have the potential to cause serious harm to people who may be exposed to them. The fact that radiation cannot be detected by human senses, and that a source's presence can only be established by specialist monitoring equipment, means that control arrangements must be robust and foolproof.
This prosecution demonstrates that there are lessons here for all employers and their RPAs in relation to the management and control of sources. Employers must ensure that workers and members of the public are not subject to undue risk from uncontrolled exposure to radioactive sources. It also reinforces the message that failure to comply with regulatory requirements may result in formal enforcement action by HSE.
On 31 July 2000, the Science Museum was found guilty at Marylebone Magistrates court of various breaches of IRR85 in relation to the storage of radioactive substances in the museum's basement. The museum was fined a total of £5000 and a further £2500 costs were awarded to HSE.
The Science Museum was found guilty of the following breaches: regulation 6(1) of IRR85: fine £2000 regulation 10(1) of IRR85: fine £1000 regulation 10(4) of IRR85: no penalty regulation 19 of IRR85: fine £2000
A fifth charge under regulation 24(1) of IRR85 alleging a lack of monitoring of designated areas was withdrawn.
This prosecution again contains lessons for all employers, especially museums and their RPAs, in relation to the keeping and storage of radioactive minerals, samples and materials. In particular, the Magistrates Court viewed these matters seriously because exposures had not been restricted to levels which were as low as reasonably practicable and no adequate records of radioactive material had been kept.
During routine sampling of the melt and slag from a foundry furnace, a significant amount of Plutonium-238 contamination was detected (later confirmed as approximately 150 GBq or 160mg, spread throughout the slag). The foundry was closed down for 2 days for the decontamination of the furnace and furnace pit. Monitoring at the foundry and surrounding land was also undertaken. Indications are that, due to good occupational hygiene conditions, exposure to employees was less than 1 mSv. Little contamination was found away from the furnace and slag.
Decontamination was carried out in full compliance with IRR99 (risk assessment, local rules, appropriate systems of work and equipment, adequate supervision and training, experienced RPA involvement, appropriate monitoring etc).
The outcome was that about 100 tonnes of contaminated slag was stored on site while discussions with the Environment Agency and HSE took place regarding disposal (a special hazard assessment under IRR85 has been completed).
Due to the closure of the foundry for a couple of days, the cost so far of this incident has run into millions of pounds. Though the disposal cost is unknown, it is likely to be very high.
Plutonium-238 is used in cardiac pacemakers (around 1960 - 70), satellite power sources and calibration sources. In this case, the plutonium probably arrived in a scrap consignment. The foundry and supplying scrap yard did have radiation detectors on the weigh bridges, but these would not have been able to detect Plutonium-238 due to the nature of the radiation. There is therefore only a small chance of tracing the origin of the source and it is possible that it originated from outside the UK.
This incident demonstrates a real problem within the UK (and indeed throughout the world). So called 'orphan' sources are being discovered in foundries and scrap consignments with increasing frequency. UK employers are reminded of the importance of ensuring that radioactive sources are kept under secure conditions (IRR99 regulation 29) and that accounting and checking procedures are sufficient to prevent or quickly identify the loss of radioactive sources (IRR99 regulation 28), so that there is a better chance of finding them before they enter the scrap chain. Although Plutonium-238 would not have been detected by weigh bridge monitors, the use of such a detection system at workplaces which accept incoming scrap material is advised, as the detectors will at least detect the more energetic photon emitting sources that might present a significant external radiation hazard to workers.
In November 1999 the annual quality assurance (QA) survey was being performed on a fluoroscopy unit within a hospital. During measurement using a patient phantom, it was found that the entrance surface dose rate was increased by an approximate factor of three compared to the measurements of the previous year. The unit was immediately taken out of service. The contracted engineer attended and determined that a faulty circuit board controlling the iris diaphragm of the camera was causing the automatic exposure control to be driven upwards, thus increasing exposure factors and hence dose rate. The engineer replaced the circuit board and adjusted the dose settings. The entrance dose rates were measured as being within acceptable limits and the equipment was brought back into service.
Prior to the incident, basic QA checks were carried out at two monthly intervals by radiographers within the department. The tests included an assessment of dose rate. The last checks before the annual QA had been carried out were in September 1999. The dose rate had been measured to be within normal limits at that time.
It seems that, in October 1999, the digital processor for the system appeared to develop a fault and it became necessary to switch to using cassette radiographs and take 'spot films'. However, no advice was sought from the RPA regarding this, although it was noted by radiographers that the kV and mA seemed to be higher following this change in October. The RPA has therefore concluded that this is the most likely date when the circuit board failed. The number of patients affected (twenty five) has been determined as the number undergoing fluoroscopy procedures from October until the fault was detected.
The investigation highlighted a number of inadequacies relating to actioning QA recommendations, fault recording and general compliance with the QA requirements of IRR99 regulation 32. An improvement notice was served under that regulation.
Lessons for employers are that an effective QA programme should include procedures for recording equipment faults and actions to be taken, including the need to obtain advice from the RPA when necessary.
The Ionising Radiations Advisory Committee (IRAC) was set up in 1995 to consider all matters concerning protection against exposure to ionising radiations that are relevant to the work of the Health and Safety Commission (HSC). It is chaired by Dr Sam Harbison and has 18 members nominated by the CBI, the TUC, local authority organisations, the National Consumer Council, the National Radiological Protection Board, small firms organisations, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Defence and relevant professional organisations. Recently, it has concentrated on completion of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 and the development of supporting guidance and procedures. Residual work from this project, particularly the production of associated non-statutory guidance, and a forward look to future developments now dominate its work. IRAC also provides general advice to HSC and HSE on occupational implications of ongoing research and other developments in the ionising radiations field.
In response to a request from the Commissioner for Public Appointments, along with HSC's other advisory committees, IRAC has been considering how a more diverse range of people, particularly ethnic minorities and women, could be attracted to apply for public appointments (eg on advisory committees). IRAC is planning to hold an open meeting during 2001. This will provide an opportunity for people potentially interested in public appointment to shadow a member and see how the Committee works. Similarly, others interested in IRAC's work can attend and ask questions or take part in discussion. Further information on public appointments is available on the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments' web site at http://publicappointmentscommissioner.independent.gov.uk/.
HSE has published two further information sheets in the Ionising Radiation Protection series:
These are in addition to information sheets already published:
These information sheets are available from HSE Books and on the HSE website.
The following information sheets will be published at a later date:
HSE is, or will shortly be, consulting interested parties on the following draft guidance:
If you would like to receive a draft to comment on, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Issue 18 is the last paper copy distribution of the Radiation Protection Adviser. Future issues will be published electronically on HSE's website. The only exception is for those readers who have indicated to HSE that they do not have access to the internet, in which case a paper copy will continue to be sent to them.
To reflect this move to an electronic distribution which will be accessible to a wider audience, the heading of this newsletter will change to 'Radiation Protection News'. This name change will take place from Issue 19 onwards.
This publication may be freely reproduced, except for advertising, endorsement or commercial purposes. The information it contains is current at 11/2000. Please acknowledge the source as HSE.
Printed and published by the Health & Safety Executive
All HSE free publications may be obtained from: HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 6FS Tel: 01787 881165; fax: 01787 313995