Ionising radiation at work: what determines the new legislation?
A new Royal Decree dated 31 December 2018 changes the interpretation of the ARBIS, the legislation that protects employees against the risks of ionising or radioactive radiation. From now on, it is the responsibility of the employer, operator, or transporter of radioactive substances to set up a service responsible for carrying out physical inspections. Why was this amendment introduced? What does it actually mean for your organisation?
Ionising radiation, also called radioactivity, is common in the workplace. The source could be X-ray cameras, parcel and baggage scanners, or levellers to measure the contents of tanks. Every device that emits ionising radiation must be licensed, sealed when commissioned (delivery report), and inspected regularly.
Who carries out the inspections?
Up until now, accredited external institutions – including Controlatom – took care of the commissioning and inspections. But under pressure from Europe, these tasks can no longer be carried out by the same organisation. This is why a new Royal Decree has been issued amending the ARBIS. Specifically, as an employer or operator, you are now personally responsible for carrying out physical inspections of installations containing ionising radiation. This responsibility is also placed on you if you are a transporter of radioactive substances (class 7). The Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) is responsible for ensuring the internal service is working correctly.
Stimulating internal knowledge building
At the same time, the amendment to the legislation is intended to increase internal knowledge of ionising radiation within companies. The shift in responsibilities must bring about a change of attitude. After all, risks associated with radiation are an integral part of a strong well-being policy. Employers, operators, and transporters must therefore know the potential dangers of radiation and know how to prevent or solve problems.
How do you organise an internal physical inspection service?
To organise the physical inspection of equipment containing ionising radiation, you must establish an internal physical inspection service. If necessary, you can bring it under the internal occupational health and safety department. This is not mandatory, but close collaboration is recommended.
There are two possibilities:
- You appoint an employee as a accredited radiation expert. After intensive training at an accredited institute, and after achieving recognition by the FANC, he or she will then become the head of your physical inspection service. Ideally, this service is part of your internal occupational health and safety department.
- You appoint an employee as an agent for radiation protection. He or she follows (less intensive) training and then heads the physical inspection department. Ideally, this person will also be the head of your internal occupational health and safety department. You are still responsible for the physical inspection of your installations, but for practical implementation, you count on a accredited external physical inspection institution – in practice Controlatom – to provide an expert. This external service no longer works under the responsibility of the FANC, but directly for you.
New: class IIA
The amendment also creates a new class IIA. This class contains the riskiest companies in the current class II: particle accelerator, radiation generators, etc. If your organisation falls under the new class, you remain subject to the regulations for class II, but the frequency of the physical inspection increases. In addition, the FANC closely monitors the inspections.
Depending on the class of your organisation, you have one or two years to set up the internal service, train the right people, make agreements, and ensure your organisation is fully compliant.
- Class I and IIA: 1 January 2020
Organisations with a high to very high risk (for example, nuclear power plants, particle accelerators, hospitals).
- Class I and III: 1 January 2021
Organisations with moderate to high risk (for example, industrial gamma radiography, level meters, metal research).
- Transporter of radioactive materials (class 7): 1 June 2020
What can Mensura do for you?
You can count on Mensura to manage the changeover and ensure safety at all times. Our radioprotection workgroup consists of accredited doctors (class II) and a radiation expert.
- Support from accrediteddoctors
Our accredited doctors take care of a number of legal tasks:
- periodical medical examination of exposed staff;
- monitoring the accumulation of acquired radiation doses;
- informing employees about the risks of ionising radiation;
- analysing risks for your company.
In addition, for every organisation that works with ionising radiation, we provide an accredited back-up radioprotection doctor who takes care of periodic monitoring on the shop floor.
- Support from a radiation expert
You can also count on a radiation expert to support your internal physical inspection service. This will help you to:
- draw up permit applications;
- prepare delivery reports (commissioning reports);
- carry out risk assessments;
- create standard documentation;
- train your employees about radiological risks.