Monitoring And Measuring Radon Exposure In The Workplace
In the UK, there is a naturally occurring element called RADON. This element is suspected to increase the risk of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for the most significant component of background radiation dose that the UK population is exposed to, and employers have a duty to protect their workforce and ensure they understand the level of potential exposure.
The first step – a Radon Assessment. This can be a basic study t understand your risk profile and where needed, monitoring of Radon to determine if more action is needed.
You, the employer or property responsible persons can do this with some research and understanding of the below. Or simply get an expert in to help. We find the simplest solutions the most effective and cost-effective. You should be able to identify what the scale of your problem is, if at all, with little investment.
Below is some further information.
What is radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is both colourless and odourless. It is formed by the radioactive decay of small amounts of uranium that occur naturally in many rocks and soils.
Why is radon problematic?
Most radon breathed in by an individual is immediately exhaled and presents a little radiological hazard. However, the decay products of radon are themselves radioactive. These decay products attach to atmospheric dust and water droplets, which can then be inhaled and lodge in the lungs and airways. Some of these decay products emit particularly hazardous radiation known as alpha particles, which cause significant damage to the sensitive cells in the lungs.
Certain geographical regions are more prone to radon gas than others due to geological differences, and the levels at which it enters the atmosphere and into workplaces depends on the geology of the specific area. See this map showing risk areas published by Public Health England (Including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) – https://www.ukradon.org/information/ukmaps
All indoor workplaces including factories, offices, shops, classrooms, nursing homes, residential care homes and health centres can be affected by radon. Underground workplaces such as basements, cellars, mines, caves and utility industry service ducts can have significant levels of radon, particularly in radon ‘Affected Areas’.
How do you monitor and assess radon?
Radon is detectable and measurable using a recognised and specific radon monitoring device.
The monitoring will need to be effective considering the building design and its occupancy/activities. The survey will need to be designed to include the correct number of monitoring devices are positioned in suitable and representative areas to determine exposure levels.
How long does radon monitoring take?
Typically, a single monitoring phase lasts for a three-month period. However, to ensure that seasonal variations are determined, and results are trended, an assessment over a period of 12 months (four monitoring phases) may be required.
This ensures that results can be averaged over a year-long period to allow for comparison against the annual average limit of 300 Bq/m3, as stated in the Ionising Radiation Regulations (IRR17).
What is the action level?
Where annual radon monitoring confirms average results exceeding 300 Bq/m3, the Ionising Radiation Regulations (IRR17) apply, which require employers to take action to limit exposures.
What protective measures can be taken against radon exposure?
When elevated radon levels have been confirmed, reduced exposure can be achieved by incorporating protective measures including:
- improved underfloor and indoor ventilation
- sealing large gaps in floors and walls in contact with the ground
- positive ventilation of occupied areas
- installation of radon sumps and extraction pipework.
Levels in the area should be re-measured immediately after installation in order to verify the effectiveness of the new control measures.
If you are unaware of your current level of risk to radon exposure, an assessment should be undertaken. We can take care of this. Please contact us for advice.
Where radon levels are satisfactory, the employer should keep a record of the results and review them after around 10 years, or in the case of significant changes to the workplace structure/use taking place.