incorporating ADS News
(formerly The Radiation Protection Adviser)
Welcome to issue 29 of Radiation Protection News incorporating ADS News, which aims to clarify areas of concern and update readers on further developments in the field of ionising radiation.
Please send any comments, queries and contributions to Ionising Radiation Policy, Health and Safety Executive, 7NW, Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS
This publication may be freely reproduced, except for advertising, endorsement or commercial purposes. Please acknowledge the source as HSE.
Following external consultation last year, HSE hope to publish the new HSE Statement on Radiation Protection Advisers soon. This is expected to come into effect on 1 January 2007 to allow sufficient time for RPA 2000 Assessing Body to modify its operating procedures and standards and criteria for assessment. When it is published the new Statement will be available via http://www.hse.gov.uk/radiation/ionising/rpa/rpa.htm together with the current version and an explanation of the changes made.
HSE is very grateful for all the comments made by readers who responded to the consultation document.
Guidance Note PM77 (third edition) has been published on HSE’s website. It contains advice on compliance with the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999, for employers who have control of equipment used in connection with medical exposure to ionising radiation. The Guidance Note supplements the advice in ‘Work with ionising radiation’ HSC Approved Code of Practice and guidance in support of IRR99. ISBN 0 7176 1746 7 reference L121 HSE Books and replaces ‘Fitness of equipment used for medical exposure to ionising radiation’ Guidance Note PM77 (second edition).
The 1995 yellow A5 booklet ‘Radon in the Workplace’, IND(G) 210L has been replaced by guidance published on the HSE website.This describes the hazards and the legal requirements for testing and mitigation and also links directly to other radon information sources such as the UK radon affected area maps.
On Tuesday 22 nd November 2005 the Health and Safety Executive Field Operations Directorate Radiation Team (FOD RT) hosted a meeting of representatives from professional institutions to discuss present and future non-nuclear operational radiological protection issues.
The meeting aimed to identify and understand the main challenges ahead to focus effort on achieving better, more effective regulation of radiation protection.
The professional institutions represented were:
The meeting was held in an Open Space format with no agenda prepared beforehand. This enabled participants to set their own agenda by nominating items to be addressed. The topics discussed were:
The topics were divided into 6 sessions over a maximum of 4 workstations, allowing participants to choose which discussions they would like to be part of. Those who raised the issue acted as the ‘convenor’ for the sessions, introducing the topic and providing a brief explanation for their reasons for raising the issue. The discussions then continued and brief notes were taken by a member of the group and given to the ‘newsroom’ to be typed up and later provided to the participants.
Soon after the Open Space meeting, the FOD Radiation Team met to formulate a program of actions to address the issues that were raised. These actions have been integrated into their work plan.
The ‘HSE & RPA issues’ session was attended by the majority of the participants, and raised a number of issues for debate. The two main issues related to the independence of the RPA and how also how an RPA can provide the best advice. The independence of the RPA has been clarified in the revised RPA statement, and there will be a future RP News article discussing what was considered to be best practice for the provision of radiation protection advice.
This discussion followed on into the session relating to ‘Radiation Employer Education’. The group were concerned that radiation employers are over-dependent on RPAs and that they may find difficulty in deciding which RPAs are suitable for their needs. The articles in this issue of RP News on ‘Radiation Employers Duties and Over dependence on RPA’s’ and ‘Training’ are a direct result of the Open Space meeting.
The discussion on ‘Critical Examinations’ raised the question "When is it necessary?" Although it is the installer’s responsibility, it is not always fulfilled and the information they provide is often inadequate.
The revised Guidance Note PM77 (third edition) [PDF 109kb] ‘Equipment used in connection with medical exposure’ has now been published on the HSE Website. The FOD Radiation Team will continue its program of inspections of NHS Trusts in 2006/07, and they will now place greater emphasis on aspects relating to critical examinations and responsibilities. In addition, there will be an article in a future edition of RP News to clarify what is meant by ‘installation’.
Although the Physical Agents Directive won’t change the current requirements for laser safety, the discussion on ‘Lasers’ highlighted the desire for laser safety guidance following the implementation of the Directive in 2008.
HSE believe it is more appropriate and effective if industries produce their own guidance, and so FOD Radiation Team wish to encourage industries to produce their own guidance with their assistance.
The reporting of 4 laser eye strikes at Universities in recent years, prompted the Radiation Team to inspect 20 universities throughout the UK during 2005/06 to assess standards of laser safety. Several improvement notices were served on Universities to produce suitable risk assessments for their use of lasers and to minimise the risks by installing engineering controls where reasonably practicable.
In 2006/07 FOD RT will be focussing their efforts towards laser manufacturer’s duties under Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, since many of the problems found during use are a result of inadequate information and advice provided by the manufacturer.
The discussion on ’When will there be an accreditation scheme for non-ionising radiation’ debated whether there should be a series of separate certificates of competence to cover other aspects of radiation protection e.g. lasers, RF, optical, low frequency EMFs. The group recognised that there are some Laser Protection Adviser schemes currently available but felt that they are not consistent.
As there is no requirement set out in either the EMF or the Optical Radiation Directives, HSE will not voluntarily introduce competence criteria for non-ionising radiation advisers, and can only advise employers to consider the schemes currently available in sourcing suitable training for their employees.
The ‘Pregnancy’ discussion centred on the question of ‘when is it appropriate to ask a patient if they are pregnant?’ FOD RT were unable to advise on this issue as it relates to the Ionising Radiations (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2000 rather than IRR99. FOD RT will therefore pass this issue onto the Department of Health at the next liaison meeting.
The issue of ‘Radon in the workplace’ questioned what could be done given the scientific risk data. The Health Protection Agency estimate that between 90 - 280 employees die each year due to occupational exposure to radon; similar to the fatality rate in the construction industry.
FOD Radiation Team have developed a radon enforcement program to raise awareness and reduce radon concentrations in workplaces. The program includes 15 initiatives, one of which is a series of team inspection campaigns aimed at raising employer’s awareness. Three campaigns have been done so far in Cornwall, Devon and Derbyshire and FOD RT are now working in partnership with the Local Authorities in these areas. More information can be found in the article ‘Radon in Workplaces: HSE Action Plan Update’.
’Nuclear Medicine Controlled/Supervised Areas’ are often designated differently. A number of problems Trust’s face in designating areas were discussed and gained greater appreciation. The overall opinion was that provided NHS Trusts had completed a suitable and sufficient risk assessment addressing the likelihood of contamination and potential radiation exposures, and had put in place adequate control measures, then it was accepted that Trust’s areas may differ in designation. An article will be published in a future RP News to further clarify what is expected in nuclear medicine departments.
The discussion on ‘Visiting contractors’ questioned how well employers cooperate when one contractor is working on another’s premises. Are there systems in place for assessing risks to the visiting contractor from the host’s activities and vice versa?
FOD RT held a radiography client meeting in London in 2005, attended by over 80 companies, to highlight the responsibilities they had when employing contract radiographers to carry out site radiography on their premises. It was recognised that there are a number of industries where cooperation between employers could be improved.
‘Does prosecution work?’ was another question asked. The group that took part in the discussion believed that prosecution does work, and acts as a deterrent to others. There are procedures to assist inspectors when taking appropriate enforcement action to ensure that their actions are consistent and proportionate. It includes all enforcement options ranging from advice, enforcement notices to prosecution. These procedures are contained in the 'Enforcement Management Model'.
Given that the aim of the meeting was to improve ways of communicating with stakeholders, it wasn’t surprising that one of the discussion topics was ‘Communication’. How can FOD RT communicate better with stakeholders, radiation employers, RPAs, etc, and how can they encourage people to approach them?
With regards publicising learning points from investigations and interventions, FOD RT welcome invites from professional groups to meetings and events. A number of professional groups often invite members of FOD RT to present at their conferences, which gives the radiation team the opportunity to publicise their inspection findings and good practices that they have observed.
The HSE’s Ionising Radiation Health & Safety Forum (IRHSF) provides a mechanism for liaison between HSE and stakeholders concerning ionising radiation protection policy arrangements. FOD RT is also considering whether an operational forum similar to the IRHSF would be effective in improving communications.
HSE have also initiated an independent advisory service called ‘Workplace Health Connect’ for all aspects of health and safety.
So was the ‘Better Radiation Regulation through Better Communication’ meeting a success? FOD RT put a lot at stake inviting a number of radiation professionals to a meeting that didn’t even have an agenda! Most of them accepted that invitation, not really knowing what was in store for them. That in itself demonstrated the radiation community’s eagerness and willingness to work with HSE and the enthusiasm on the day left the FOD RT wondering why they ever doubted that the day would be a success. Everyone agreed that an ‘Open Space’ meeting should be held annually, but it was recognised that the attendees should be varied to ensure new issues are raised and that FOD RT reach the wider radiation community.
The aim of the day was to raise awareness of radiation protection issues, to identify any that had not been recognised, and to discuss how they could all be resolved. What remains to be done is for HSE, the professional institutions, and the radiation community as a whole to work in partnership to improve radiation protection.
It is clear that the duty to comply with the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 ( IRR99) rests with the radiation employer. A Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) assists that employer in compliance with the IRR99 by providing advice on compliance with those regulations and a Radiation Protection Supervisor (RPS) assists the employer by supervising the work of employees so that it is done in accordance with the Local Rules made under Regulation 17 of the IRR99.
HSE inspectors are concerned to ensure that radiation employers do not become divorced from radiation protection matters and compliance with the IRR99 through an over dependence upon RPAs and RPSs. For instance, it is not the function of an RPA acting in that capacity to actively manage radiation protection nor is it their function to act on the employer’s behalf. (Employers cannot contract out their duties but they can contract out radiation protection work if they wish). Similarly it is not the function of an RPS to carry out investigations on the employer’s behalf nor is it their function to actively manage dosimetry. If a person who is an RPS is doing any of these they are doing them as an employee or manager not in their role as an RPS.
It is of course quite natural for RPAs to want to assist an employer in any way they can particularly if they are an external consultant. However, they should impress upon the employer the need for management involvement in radiation protection and make it clear that they cannot act on the employer’s behalf, the key point being that duties cannot be transferred. Too often recently for instance HSE have received various regulatory notifications, including of the intention to work with ionising radiations from the RPA to the firm who wishes to carry out that work!
The radiation employer cannot pass responsibility to comply with the IRR99 to an RPA nor an RPS. Management must be involved in radiation protection and HSE Specialist Inspectors will be focusing on the management of radiation protection during their inspection activities. They will also be examining closely the relationships between employers and their RPA(s) to ensure that over dependence upon RPA(s) does not occur.
Regulation 14 of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 ( IRR99) requires that employees receive adequate and appropriate information, instruction and training in the field of radiation protection and further specifies a number of other requirements. HSE inspectors have noted that the standards required by this regulation, or indeed good radiological protection practice, are not always met. Furthermore employers who employ ‘professional’ staff such as clinicians are often failing to check whether these staff have received appropriate training.
All employees working with ionising radiations and those likely to affected by that work must receive adequate and appropriate training. This applies to employees of all ranks even those who are highly qualified in a particular field. Neither Professors, hospital Consultants nor Senior Radiologists can be assumed to have received the training required by Regulation 14 of the IRR99 and an employer should always ensure that they have.
We reported in Issue 27 (May 2005) that HSE and Local Authorities were aware that the vast majority of employers with workplaces located in ‘radon affected areas’ have not assessed the radon hazard in relation to the protection of their employees and that in response, HSE’s Field Operation Directorate’s Radiation Team (FOD RT) had devised an action plan containing fifteen initiatives targeted at increasing the numbers of workplaces assessed with the longer-term aim of reducing workplace exposures and any possible resultant fatalities. The initiatives broadly fall into three coordinated categories, namely; provision of information and advice, working with stakeholders and intermediaries, and visits to employers. [A more detailed summary of each initiative can be found in the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Environmental Radon Newsletter, Summer 2006 (prepared by HPA-RPD) available at ukradon.org.uk/downloads/ERN/ERN_47.pdf
Many of these initiatives are now underway and three are described below.
In February 2006 revised guidance was published on the HSE website. This describes the hazards and the legal requirements for testing and mitigation and also links directly to other radon information sources such as the UK radon affected area maps. The revised guidance replaces the 1995 yellow A5 booklet ‘Radon in the Workplace’, IND(G) 210L.
The first two of these took place in Cornwall and Devon in spring and autumn 2005 and comprised of inspection of large numbers of employers by a team of inspectors over one week periods. We continued to find high radon awareness amongst employers but extremely few had undertaken measurements or a risk assessment. This was even true amongst some ‘traditional’ radiation employers who already have the services of an RPA. The inspectors were however very pleased with employers' responses and their commitments to undertake appropriate measurements immediately. The next programme will take place in parts of Derbyshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire in May/ June 2006.
Since 2005, FOD RT has provided increased support for a number local authority driven workplace initiatives. These include provision of training, presentations, technical enforcement support, and joint inspections of workplace premises with a number of local authorities in Cornwall and Devon.
The Radon Action Plan will continue until 2010 and any suggestions RP News readers may have for further encouraging employers to adequately assess the risks are gratefully received.
On 20 February 2006, at Leeds Crown Court, specialist contractor AEA Technology plc (AEAT) was fined a total of £250,000 and ordered to pay £151,323 prosecution costs. The company had previously pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 and the Radioactive Materials (Carriage by Road) Regulations 1993.
The joint HSE/ Department for Transport (DfT) prosecution followed an incident in March 2002, when AEAT were contracted to remove a cobalt-60 teletherapy source from a Leeds hospital and transport it by road to Windscale, Cumbria, for disposal. At Windscale, doserates of up to 3.5 Svh -1 were found to be coming from the transport container.
Subsequent investigations revealed that a vital shield plug was missing from the transport container, allowing a beam of radiation to emit from its base. A primary cause of the incident was the company’s failure to supervise and support their staff properly.
This case should serve as a reminder that radiation protection should never be taken for granted and that management must understand its principles, not least of which is the need to supervise their staff properly. While there is no evidence that anyone received a significant exposure during the preparation and transport of this material, there was clearly the potential for an extremely serious incident to have occurred.
The case also highlights the need for proper preparation and monitoring of transport packages. Adhering to approved operating procedures would have detected the omission of the shield plug before the radioactive material was loaded to the package.
ADS will wish to note a change of contact details for correspondence relating to Approval of Dosimetry Services. The new Dosimetry Services Administrator is Yvonne Rojas-Weir.
HSE, Floor 4N3
Correspondence details for the ADS Programme Manager (Mark Bradley) are unchanged.Mark Bradley,