Health professionals use radiation in medical settings for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes when operating devices such as X-ray machines, CT scanners, linear accelerators, etc. What is radiation safety training for the workplace? Why is it essential? What does a radiation safety training or course cover? Today’s article will give you the necessary details.
Radiation is considered as the transmission of energy in the form of waves or particles through space (or a given medium). Most commonly radiation is categorized as ionizing or non-ionizing. Non-ionizing radiation is harmless based on the lower energy they hold (e.g., radio waves, microwaves, the visual spectrum of light). Ionizing radiation on the other hand holds energies strong enough to impact chemical bonds in materials, like the molecular bonds in our DNA. Therefore, ionizing radiation can have severe impacts on our health.
Workplace Radiation Safety Training
When it comes to harmful exposure in the workplace, the majority occurs as the result of an accident, but also the lack of safety culture at a workplace plays a large role. Therefore, it is crucial to educate employees about the following points:
- General risk of radiation exposure
- Radioactive materials at the workplace
- Available materials for protection
- To-do’s in case of contamination, accident, etc.
Radiation safety relies on adequate education and the resulting proactive prevention. In the event of an emergency, it is crucial that everyone knows the right steps to minimize any harm.
Biological Effects of Radiation
It has long been known that radiation can cause severe health effects, they range from minor burns to death. Generally, one can say that high doses destroy cells while low doses tent to damage them.
The effects radiation has on us is generally divided into categories.
Deterministic effects: deterministic effects are threshold effects that are guaranteed to occur after a certain amount of exposure. Examples of deterministic effects are radiation burns and radiation-induced lung injuries.
Stochastic effects: Probability of occurrence of stochastic effects is proportional to the dose but the severity of the effect is independent of the dose received. The most famous stochastic effect is probably cancer.
Sources of Radio Activity in the Workplace
Understanding the sources of radioactivity in the workplace is an integral part of radiation safety training. There can be a range of radiation sources in the workplace, such as x-rays, gamma rays, radioactive isotopes, etc.
So, the training involves teaching the workers how different sources of radiation can affect their health and compromise the workplace environment.
Apart from differentiation between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation can also be classified by its particle type. In a clinical environment the most common radiation used are x-rays. X-rays are massless photons traveling at the speed of light. They are created by an external source; For diagnostic purposes with an x-ray tube and for therapeutic use by a linear accelerator (with much higher energies). Another, slightly different, form of photon radiation are gamma rays. Gamma rays are technically like x-rays of very high energy. The difference to standard x-rays is that Gamma rays are created through the radioactive decay of an atom. Gamma rays are also used for therapeutic treatment.
Further forms of radiation are particle radiation. Radiation is transmitted from a particle of mass such as a high energy electron, neutron, or alpha particle (Alpha particles are two protons and two neutrons also referred to as a helium-4 atom).
However, any of the above-mentioned forms of radiation can have a negative impact on our health. For instance, a two-view chest x-ray produces 20mrem or 0.2mSv radiation.
On the other hand, a whole-body CT scan produces or uses radiation of 1,500mrem or 15mSv. Medical professionals also use radioactive isotopes in medicine for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.
So, understanding and administering the correct dosage for patients and protecting themselves from ionizing radiation sources are integral to the training program to stream safety in the workplace.
Personnel Monitoring Devices
According to CE4RT, Personnel monitoring devices are an essential part of the safety training program because it enables workers to understand and determine the radiation dose. For example, these devices include:
- TLD Badges
- Pocket dosimeters
- Survey meters
- Area rate alarms
- Film badges
- Thermoluminescent Dosimeter
- Optically Stimulated Luminescent Dosimeter (OSL)
Understanding how these devices work and how to use them appropriately requires proper education, training, and practice. Therefore, no radiation safety training program or course is complete without personnel monitoring devices.
Training for Laboratory Procedures
Training for laboratory processes and procedures involves teaching workers about the rules to limit unnecessary exposure and contamination in the radiology department or diagnostic rooms.
For example, a trainer may provide instructions like recognizing warning labels and signs, not entering radiation areas without permission from the laboratory administration, and not bringing food or beverages into the rooms.
In addition, this part of radiation safety training involves using plastic or rubber gloves when handling devices and minimizing the time around the radiology tools and equipment.
Ionizing radiation is a primary hazard in healthcare because exposure to higher doses can harm the patient’s and provider’s health, leading to short-term and long-term consequences.
Radiation safety training includes courses, publications, conferences, meetings, and classes to teach and educate workers on maximizing the benefits of ionizing radiation and reducing its harmful effects.