Principles of Radiation Safety

Warning signs busy surgery

Radiation exists in all things, in all places. Fortunately, most radiation people encounter is of very low levels, known as background radiation, which is believed to be harmless. However, there are situations in which harmful radiation occurs in high levels. In these situations, there are a number of regulations and practices to help the people most likely to be exposed to the increased radiation remain as safe as possible. These are goals are known as ALARA, an acronym for As Low As Reasonably Achievable.

It is essential for all involved parties to fully commit to safety in order for ALARA programs to work. Radiation Safety is a massive undertaking and requires a lot of planning, preventing, maintaining, inspecting, evaluating, and repairing. Radiation Safety committees or departments often consist of many areas, each made of many people. Some of the tasks of these departments may include:

  • Providing technical support to a Principal Investigator

  • Performing routine lab inspections

  • Monitoring radiation doses affecting radiation workers

  • Reviewing occupational doses of radiation and responding to situations in which levels are elevated

  • Providing training and consultation to workers

  • Maintaining awareness of potential hazards

  • Maintaining awareness of proper operating and emergency procedures

  • Reporting incidents and potentially hazardous behaviors to appropriate authorities

  • Utilizing appropriate personal protective equipment

  • Providing samples as needed

There are three major principles of limiting exposure to radiation: time, distance, and shielding. The less amount of time one spends in a radiation field, the less he/she is likely to exposed to radiation. Being well-prepared to complete tasks will make working quickly and efficiently more possible. The farther a person is from a source of radiation, the lower the radiation dose. Do not make direct physical contact with potentially radioactive materials. Utilize appropriate tools, such as remote handling devices. Placing absorbent materials between oneself and a radiation source may provide additional protection. Different types of radiation, however, are absorbed by different materials. For instance, the radiation emitted by X-Ray machines is absorbed by lead, while many Beta Particles are absorbed by plexiglass.

Knowledge and implicit following of safety policies are the most important steps for protecting oneself from occupational radiation. If your workplace does not provide adequate safety training or supplies, express your concerns with an immediate supervisor.

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