What is Ionising Radiation?
Medical and dental X-rays help us locate hidden problems. Other radiation is used to diagnose ailments and some people are treated with radiation to cure disease. Benefits from a multitude of products and services are made possible by the careful use of radioactive materials.
In the University of Adelaide, ionizing radiation is mainly used for chemical analysis, structure of crystals, tracing the behaviour of chemicals (mainly in biological sciences).
Any non-technical staff who may have incidental contact with radiation work areas (e.g. cleaners, security personnel) should check out the presentation on radiation awareness.
For more detailed information visit the Uranium Information Centre and read the excerpt from Radiation and Life.
Reasons for Caution
Due to the hazards of radiation and the technical knowledge required to understand it, the use of sources of radiation is tightly controlled.
Who is involved?
People working in areas of radioactivity or are exposed to radiation may be required to hold a licence and/or be monitored to ensure they do not receive doses above acceptable limits determined by the Federal Government.
The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care through the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPNSA; formerly ARL), provide dosimeters to record the amount of radiation received. The quarterly reports are assessed by the University Radiation Safety Officer before they are forwarded to the Area/Departmental Radiation Safety Officers for information.
The South Australian Government Radiation Protection Branch of the Environment
Protection Authority administers the issue and control of licences and registrations. These include:
- licence to use or handle a radioactive substance (external written examination required)
- licence to operate ionizing radiation apparatus (external written examination required)
- registration of sealed radioactive sources
- registration of premises in which unsealed radioactive substances are handle or kept (inspection of premise is required prior to use)
- registration of an ionizing radiation apparatus
Contact the OH&S Unit for forms.
Within the University
Area/Departmental Radiation Safety Officers (DRSO)
Area/Departmental Radiation Safety Officers must ensure that radiation work in their areas is carried out safely. They must be informed prior to commencement of any new work or altered procedures involving radioactive materials or irradiating apparatus. They must be notified of any accidents involving radiation and direct decontamination procedures in the event of a major spill. They have a responsibility for the initial management of radioactive
waste in their area.
Staff and Students
All persons using ionizing radiation are responsible for their own safe use of ionizing radiation and have an obligation to ensure that their work does not affect the safety of other staff, students or the public by any action or inaction. In particular they must ensure that they do not expose others to radiation.
Duties and Responsibilities of Workers
University Radiation Safety Officer (URSO) (must hold a licence)
- Provides advice to all levels of the University.
- Provides knowledge of Acts and Regulations governing the use of ionizing radiation.
- Official link between the University and the Environment Protection Authority.
- Oversees radioactive waste management plans.
- Responds to emergencies (incidents and accidents).
- Assesses Worker Registration applications.
- Provides Radiation Safety training for staff and student.
- Works under the supervision of the OH&S Unit.
Area/Departmental Radiation Safety Officer (DRSO) (must hold a licence)
- Provides advice at area level.
- Link between the area and URSO.
- Inducts new staff and students using radiation.
- Responsible for radioactive waste management in the area.
- Maintains an inventory of all radiation equipment, substances etc.
- Provides initial emergency response in the area.
- Generally responsible for the operation of radiation safety in the area.
Supervisors (must hold a licence)
- Provide advice to those for whom they are responsible.
- Responsible for using the ALARA principle (As Low As Reasonably Achievable, bearing economic and social factors in mind) and risk assessment in designing the experimental programs.
- Provide work-place supervision and instruction and ensure attendance at training programs.
- Responsible for radiation safety in their group.
Workers (may be required to hold a licence)
- Responsible for their own safety and that of others in the area.
- Know the local working rules for laboratories and equipment.
- Know the immediate steps to take in an emergency.
The risk of ionizing radiation causing detriment to the foetus is higher than the risk to the worker. The normal dose limit for a worker is therefore reduced during pregnancy.
The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommends a dose limit of 2 mSv to the surface of the abdomen during pregnancy whereas the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends the same level of protection as for a member of the public. This is a dose of 1 mSv in a year, which is equivalent to a limit of 0.75 mSv to the abdomen during the pregnancy.
In practice the doses to workers in the University are normally well below 0.2 mSv per year and the risk to the foetus is very small.
If a radiation worker becomes pregnant the following steps must be taken:
- the University Radiation Safety Officer (OH&S Unit) must be informed
- supervisors should be informed of the pregnancy
- a pregnant worker should re-evaluate her work practices and radiation exposure in order to minimise radiation exposure during pregnancy.
(The basis of these requirements is the Regulations under the South Australian Radiation Protection and Control Act, and in particular Regulation 17.)
Radiation Safety Documentation
The following documents provide information on radiation safety and practices
within the University.
Radiation Safety Manual
Section 1 - Policy Framework
Section 2 - Important Concepts in Radiation Protection
Section 3 - Guidelines for Unsealed Radioactive Material
Section 4 - Guidelines for Using X-Ray Apparatus
Section 5 - Guidelines for Sealed Radioactive Material
Section 6 - Reference Information for Radiation Proctection
Radiation doses from using P32
If you want to start using sources of radiation what is the procedure/system?
- Contact your Area/Departmental Radiation Safety Officer who will advise you on what licences, registrations, training you may require.
- Complete a Radiation Worker Registration form and forward it to the Radiation Unit in OH&S. The URSO will determine whether you require a licence and/or a dosimeter. The area where you intend to use a radioactive source will need to be licensed by the Radiation Protection Division (Environment Protection Authority). The source and/or apparatus will also require registration.
- Prior to any building alterations please check with the University Radiation Safety Officer to ensure that any special requirements are catered for.
Central Administration will pay for the costs incurred for:
- radiation licence applications and renewals
- dosimeters provided by ARPNSA
on the understanding that all applications are processed by OH&S Unit. (Lost monitors (TLDs) are the area/departments expense.)
All information should go via the Area/Departmental Radiation Safety Officer, so they know what is happening in the area they are responsible.
Time-frames throughout the year
- February - confirmation with Head of Department/School that existing Area/Departmental Radiation Safety Officers remain.
- March - worker registration update.
- March/April - training sessions for staff and higher degree students.
- August - licence and registration renewal.
Contact a Area/Departmental Radiation Safety Officer for advice or Gerald Laurence or Linda Knobben.