Dose monitoring, assessment and recording

Dose limits

Why have dose limits?

Dose limits are set to protect workers and members of the public from the effects of ionising radiation. They are set at a level that balances the risk from exposure with the benefits of using ionising radiation. The fundamental requirement is for employers to reduce all exposure to ionising radiations to as low a level as possible and this should be below the dose limits.

What are dose limits?

Dose limits are intended to reduce the risk of serious effects occurring, such as cancer, and are in place to protect the eyes, skin and extremities against other forms of damage. Dose limits are defined in UK legislation and can be found in Schedule 3 of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017.

There are different dose limits for different classes of people:

  • adult employees aged 18 or over
  • trainees aged 16 to 18
  • any other person, such as a member of the public

Should I notify my employer if I am pregnant?

It is in your interest and those of your baby to inform your employer as soon as you know you are pregnant. Your employer needs to know this so they can make any necessary changes to protection measures and apply the additional dose constraints. You are not legally required to inform your employer and can choose to keep this private. However, if your employer is unaware that you are pregnant they may not be able to take any further action.

Am I allowed to exceed a dose limit?

It is an offence under the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 to exceed a dose limit.

HSE produces statistics based on the dose information reported annually to the Central Index of Dose Information (CIDI).

Dose monitoring

The risk assessment you carry out for work with ionising radiation should consider the potential radiation exposures an individual may receive during the course of their work (including accidental exposures).

This will help you to:

  • estimate likely radiation doses
  •  identify whether your staff should be subject to personal dose monitoring
  • determine whether certain employees should be designated as classified persons

Controlled areas

What is a controlled area?

A controlled area is one which has been designated by an employer to assist in controlling and restricting radiation exposures. Controlled areas will be designated because the employer has recognised the need for people entering an area to follow special procedures.

Who can enter a controlled area?

Entrance into controlled areas is strictly controlled by the employer. Employees designated as 'classified persons' and outside workers can enter the area where they have been authorised to do so by the employer and have received appropriate training.

If an assessment of the potential exposure shows that work in a controlled area could be done by employees who are not classified persons, HSE would normally expect entry into the controlled areas to be allowed under suitable written arrangements and monitoring to ensure exposures are kept as low as possible. Other workers should only be allowed conditional access and only in accordance with prior written arrangements.

What is a classified person?

An employer must classify an employee where they consider that their employee is likely to receive:

  • an effective dose greater than 6 mSv per year or
  • an equivalent dose greater than 15mSv per year for the lens of the eye or
  • a dose greater than 150mSv per year for the skin or the extremities (hands, forearms, feet or ankles)

Employees can only be classified if they are aged 18 years or over.

What happens if I am 'classified'?

As a classified person, your employer is required to:

  • inform you that you are classified
  • assess and record your radiation dose
  • ensure that you are certified fit to work with ionising radiation by an appointed doctor or employment medical adviser (medical surveillance)

Your employer should periodically review if there is a continuing need for classification.

What happens if I work with radiation for more than one employer?

Where an employee has two or more employers, they should cooperate to ensure that relevant information, in particular relating to exposure, is shared.

The classification of the employee should be determined on the basis of the total dose that the employee is likely to receive from both employers. For example, an interventional radiologist working for both an NHS Trust and a private hospital could potentially receive a greater dose.

Examples of classification:-

  • An engineer for a firm that maintains office equipment needs to visit a site to fix a photocopier. Enclosure radiography is carried out on these premises. Following consultation between employers, it is clear that the engineer has no need to either work in or pass through any areas where he could receive exposure to ionising radiation.

Outcome: As entry to a controlled area is not required, neither designation as a classified person nor written arrangements are necessary.

  • A contract welder is going to weld pipe work in close proximity to the reactor of a nuclear submarine. A risk assessment identifies potential for significant exposure to ionising radiation from several likely exposure routes. The welder is likely to perform similar work in controlled areas at a number of sites in the course of the year.

Outcome: On this basis the employer has decided to designate the welder as a classified person.

  • A service engineer for a firm that maintains laboratory equipment needs to visit a site to carry out service work. Although the equipment itself does not contain any sources of ionising radiation, it is located in a controlled area. The site employer calculates that the service engineer could receive an associated dose of 2µSv per visit.

Outcome: Although designation is unlikely to be appropriate, suitable written arrangements under IRR17 will be necessary to allow entry to the controlled area and the 2 employers should exchange relevant information. A record should be kept of any monitoring in the controlled area and assessment of dose.

  • A licensed nuclear site is appointing a specialist pest control firm. The firm consults the licensee and establishes that the technician would need access to many areas across the site, including controlled areas.

Outcome: The firm uses the services of the licensee's radiation protection Adviser (RPA) and it is evaluated that the potential and actual dose would be far below that where designation would be required. The firm concurs with the evaluation and written arrangements under IRR17 (that include assessments of dose) are implemented to allow the technician to enter all required areas.

  • A radiopharmacist routinely receives doses to the hands of 20mSv in every 8 week period of dose assessment.

Outcome: As she is approaching 3/10ths of the appropriate dose limit of 500mSv per year, designation as a classified person will be necessary.

  • In their risk assessment for interventional radiology, an NHS Trust concluded that all consultant radiologists doing this work were to have whole-body, hand and leg doses assessed for a trial period of three months. Results indicated that classification was not necessary, but these employees would still be subject to routine personal dosimetry for their work in controlled areas.

Outcome: The Trust revisited the risk assessment when only one radiologist remained to carry out all the work. This radiologist would now have a significantly increased interventional workload, and based on projected doses to the hands and lens of the eyes particularly, the Trust decided that this remaining individual should be classified. The continuing need for classification was then subject to periodic review.

Outside workers

What is an outside worker?

You are an outside worker under IRR17 when you are:

  • a designated classified person or non-classified person, working for an employer or self-employed, and
  • you are carrying out services in a controlled area set up by another employer.

For example, an engineer (whether they are a classified person or not) works for a firm of maintenance contractors and goes into a controlled area in a hospital to service an accelerator. That engineer is an outside worker and these provisions apply both to their employer and the employer who has control of the controlled area in which they are carrying out the service.

You are not an outside worker when:

  • you enter another employer's controlled area merely as a visitor or
  • you have a contract of employment with each employer or
  • when the employer has set up the controlled area on another employer's site, or an existing controlled area is formally handed over to the other employer. For example, an industrial radiographer brings a radioactive source onto another employer's site and creates a controlled area where one did not previously exist.

What information do I need to complete a risk assessment for outside work?

The employer of the outside worker and the employer in control of the supervised/controlled area should exchange information about the risks so adequate arrangements can be made for worker protection. The type of information that may need to be exchanged includes:

  • the details of the actual work to be done
  • the type of likely radiation exposure
  • an estimate of the total dose likely to arise from the work
  • the work procedures that will be required to keep doses as low as reasonably practicable (including any use of personal protective equipment)
  • any local restrictions that will be applied
  • the relevant local rules that apply (including emergency arrangements and contingency plans);
  • RPS and RPA appointments
  • any relevant dose constraints, special dose limits or declaration of pregnancy or breastfeeding

As a classified outside worker, you will use a personal dosemeter issued by your employer and have an estimate of any likely dose from working in another employer's controlled area recorded in your radiation passbook.

I have been issued with a radiation passbook. What does this mean?

You are a classified outside worker. Your employer will issue you with a radiation passbook before you begin working in the controlled area of another employer.

The employer for the controlled area will record in your passbook the relevant estimated dose(s), including all external, internal and non-uniform doses such as those to the lens of the eye, from each period you have worked in their controlled area. The passbook should be updated before you leave site or at agreed intervals for longer periods of work. Your employer's Approved Dosimetry Service will hold these doses in your dose record.

For non-classified outside workers the employer in control of the work area must provide you with suitable written arrangements, including personal dose monitoring or other suitable measurements to estimate dose, to ensure your doses are restricted to as low as possible. Records should be made of any dose monitoring.

How do I monitor my staff?

For your workers designated as classified persons, you must employ one or more approved dosimetry services (ADS) to make assessments of all radiation exposures that are likely to be significant. Dose records for classified persons must be held by an ADS that is specifically approved to keep such records.

You must send your ADS accurate information about your employees and tell them when a classified person ceases to be classified or leaves your employment. The ADS will send a termination record to give the leaving employee.

Make sure your employees know their dose information is being kept by your ADS and that summaries are held in HSE's Central Index of Dose Information (CIDI). Employees are entitled to request from the ADS copies of their own dose records and termination reports including a complete dose history.

Regulation 22 of IRR17 sets out the requirements – see the Approved Code of Practice and guidance on the Regulations.

What should I do with the worker dose summaries from my ADS?

Your ADS will provide you with dose summaries for all your classified workers. These provide you with valuable information to identify (and if necessary investigate) where:

  • particular individuals are receiving  higher doses than the norm
  • doses are tending to increase in time
  • doses are approaching a formal investigation level

These may point to a need for further training, a review of working conditions or even an investigation of a previously unidentified accident.

Regulation 22 of IRR17 sets out the requirements – see the Approved Code of Practice and guidance on the Regulations.

How do I find a dose monitoring service?

See our approved dosimetry services webpages for information, including a list of HSE-approved services.

How do I ensure the proper care and use of personal monitoring equipment?

You need to make sure that your employees receive adequate training and instruction about the care and proper use of dosemeters you provide so they know:

  • how and when to wear them
  • how to look after them properly
  • to return them on time
  • what to do if they lose them or think their dosemeter has been exposed when they were not wearing it

How should I store dosemeters?

When not being worn, make sure dosemeters are stored:

  • securely
  • in a low-radiation area away from other things that may affect them such as contamination chemicals, hot pipes, non-ionising radiation. Your ADS can tell you what to avoid
  • away from areas where they may be inadvertently exposed to ionising radiation (eg in overalls or toolboxes)

Make sure dosemeters are not screened by X-ray surveillance equipment such as mail/package monitors, otherwise they may register an incorrect dose.

What do I do if I think a worker has had an overexposure?

An overexposure is where a dose to a worker has exceeded a dose limit. Where you suspect an overexposure to a worker has occurred you must:

  • investigate immediately with the help of your RPA and ADS and involve any appointed safety representative
  • inform the relevant employer if the person overexposed is not your employee
  • make a record of your investigation and conclusions

Regulation 26 of IRR17 sets out the requirements about investigation – see the Approved Code of Practice and guidance on the Regulations.

Unless the investigation shows beyond reasonable doubt that the overexposure did not occur you must:

  • arrange for your employee to see the appointed doctor. The appointed doctor must confirm the worker is fit to continue work with ionising radiation
  • establish any pro-rata dose limit that is needed for the worker for the remainder of the year
  • keep the worker informed about the dose and any actions taken
  • inform HSE of the overexposure

What do I do if a worker has had an exposure over 6mSv (but below the dose limit)?

You must ask your ADS to carry out a dose assessment for the worker, including the examination of any personal monitoring device, and inform the worker and HSE of the result.

Is this page useful?

Updated 2023-09-27