Importance of Radiation Safety

by | Jan 27, 2017

Why is Radiation Safety Your Concern?

Radiation is dangerous. It is easy to become complacent about the dangers of radiation since it is invisible and odorless. Marie Curie discovered radium, and most likely died from a bone marrow disease due to radioactivity exposure during her career.

Are you being exposed to higher levels of radiation than necessary? The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified radiation as a carcinogen. The risks of excess radiation exposure are significant, potentially leading to a variety of health issues, from cataracts and hair loss to congenital disabilities and the development of cancers.

Who is responsible for keeping you safe? For facilities, radiation safety is usually the joint responsibility of the radiation safety officer and the technologists who work in their department. You play a vital role in your safety by maintaining updated training and monitoring your occupational exposure. While wearing a lead apron is a solid start, are you also keeping track of your radiation exposure via a radiation exposure program including quarterly dosimetry readings? Wearing a dosimeter badge at all times and then returning it every quarter for exposure assessment by an outside company is best practice to monitor your exposure levels.

The American Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements current federal limit of exposure per year for an allows adults who work with radiation not to be:

  • As low as reasonably achievable (ALARA);
  • however, not to exceed 5,000 millirems above the 300+ millirems of natural sources of radiation and any medical radiation.
  • Lifetime exposure is measured by your age multiplied by 1,000 Mrems.

Consequently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The Joint Commission, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are paying closer attention. States will typically perform inspections once or twice a year.

There are three key reasons radiation safety remains an issue:

  1. Healthcare workers typically receive only minimal radiation training.
  2. A radiologist or radiologic technologist on a surgeon’s team may or may not have limited familiarity with all the sources of radiation exposure. This unfamiliarity limits their ability to reduce risk and employ safe strategies. While most radiology teams employ, best radiation safety practices are easy to become complacent when no one is watching.

Best Practice Radiation Safety Programs

We all play a role in maintaining and enforcing best practices to keep you and your facility safe. Healthcare workers using nuclear medicine, computed tomography (CT) and fluoroscopy are at higher risk for excessive exposure. Are you and your coworkers doing everything you can to reduce exposure for your sake as well as your patients?

There are numerous ways healthcare facilities and healthcare workers can make radiation safety improvements.

  1. An excellent first step is to require that all who work with or around radiation take a radiation safety course.
  2. Foster effective communication among the healthcare team to ensure everyone understands radiation safety is an integral part of his or her job.
  3. We all play a role. Speak up if you are concerned about safety practices.
  4. Technologists should make full use of radiation-reduction features built into the equipment.
  5. Manufacturers should be requested to regularly provide training for new workers to who may be unaware of the equipment’s safety features.
  6. Hospitals should have written procedures regarding the use of precautions and personal protective equipment around hazardous materials, which include radiation and x-ray equipment.
  7. Hospitals should provide protective devices, such as lead aprons and shields, and ensure they are worn as required.
  8. Any healthcare worker continually exposed to radiation should wear a dosimeter to monitor cumulative radiation exposure.
  9. Hospitals should maintain records regarding individual worker’s quarterly occupational exposure, as recorded by dosimetry badges.
  10. States should perform an inspection once or twice per year to verify radiation exposure compliance.

Radiation is an important diagnostic tool, but it is dangerous, and we all must play a role to create a safe and environment. There is significant room for improvement in radiation safety practices.  Anyone who works in a radiation environment must make a commitment to keep everyone’s exposure as low as reasonably achievable.

Contact us today to find out more about how to manage your radiation exposure.

About IntelliCentrics

We all play a role.As the leader in radiation compliance services, we can be the guide to radiation safety for every role. Through our managed services, you gain immediate access to in-depth radiation safety knowledge and experience.  To find out more about how we can help your radiation safety program, download our Radiation Exposure Management & Compliance Services brochure.

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