Radiation Safety

The role of a Radiation Safety Officer

What does a radiation safety officer (RSO) do and how can I become one? What are the key components of an ideal training program?

A Radiation Safety Officer is a professional who works with various companies in different industries to evaluate potential hazards, develop safety and health protocols, and improve workers' safety. 

Radiation Safety Officers (RSO) handle hazardous materials to decrease radiation exposure to workers. Not only do RSOs develop or manage a company's Radiation Protection Program (RPP), but they also guide/teach workers on how to use the equipment efficiently and safely.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) states that RSOs play a crucial role in various settings, including healthcare, to protect workers from harmful radiation exposure. Some everyday duties are to:

  • Research existing and new radiation guidelines and regulations
  • Manage radiation safety training in a company
  • Measure material, product, or facility radiation levels
  • Develop and maintain radiation safety and management procedures
  • Create departmental teams, budgets, and reports about radiation safety
  • Supervise workers within a setting that involves interaction with radiation

Radiation Safety Officer Training

Radiation Safety Officers complete specific education and training courses to carry out their responsibilities. For example, most RSOs complete a bachelor's or master's degree to learn evidence-based information.

Once graduated, these professionals undergo various training programs and gain proficiency to help companies and medical facilities implement safety protocols and protect their workers from radiation.

It is important to remember that RSOs have different types of licenses depending on their education, courses undertaken, and the facility/location they work in. Here is what a typical radiation safety officer training involves:

Understanding Effects of Ionizing Radiation Exposure

Ionizing radiation can severely affect human health. It can break molecular structures within the cells and tissues and lead to problems like cancers and tumors. Intense exposure to ionizing radiation can also cause skin issues.

RSO training allows these individuals to learn and understand the harmful effects of ionizing radiation exposure at different levels. For example, 5-20 rem of radiation can cause DNA and chromosomal changes, and 20-100 rem exposure can lead to reduced leukocytes (white blood cells).

Likewise, 100-200 radiation exposure can cause symptoms like fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, and infections. Understanding the harmful effects of radiation at different levels and protecting workers from hazards is an integral part of the training program.

Proper Use of Radiation Dosimetry

Radiation safety officer training involves familiarizing the professional with radiation dosimetry and other instruments. A radiation dosimeter is a system, device, or apparatus that allows the RSO to measure and evaluate radiation exposure quantities, the amount absorbed, and rates or time derivatives.

Understanding dosimetry and related instrumentation are essential to prevent exposure in the workplace and protect workers from harmful radiation. The training requires RSOs to understand the properties of dosimeter, which includes:

  • Accuracy and precision
  • Linearity
  • Dose rate dependence
  • Energy dependence
  • Spatial resolution and physical size
  • Readout convenience
  • Convenience of use

Radiation Protection Training

A 2018 research study published on NCBI highlights that time, distance, and shielding are the three primary principles of radiation safety. These three factors are integral components of radiation safety officer training, course, or program.

For instance, understanding the "time" means the appropriate amount of time a worker can spend in the radiology department, diagnostics room, or near a radioactive source.

Understanding "time" allows RSOs to minimize the duration near a radioactive source and encourage workers to complete their work efficiently and quickly. The purpose is to avoid spending unnecessary time around the radioactive device.

In addition, "distance" means how close a worker is to the radiology device or radioactive source. Compared to the "time" factor that requires RSOs to minimize the duration, the distance "element" requires them to encourage occupational workers to maximize their distance from the radioactive source.

Moreover, the training program teaches RSOs the third component of radiation safety, "Shielding." For example, it teaches the RSO to ensure workers wear safety equipment, such as gloves, coats, and other PPEs, to reduce radiation risk.

Other Components of RSO Training

  • Appropriate handling and disposal of radioactive materials
  • Inventory control and record keeping
  • Following the regulatory requirements
  • Radioactive materials (radiology devices) transportation
  • Assessment of radiation hazard
  • Developing an employee training program
  • Emergency management and evacuation of workers
  • Responding to personnel contamination or exposure

Final Words

RSOs gain expertise in maintaining compliance with the standards, protocols, and guidelines the authorities have defined. Training is an integral part of becoming a licensed and qualified RSO, allowing them to work in various industries, including healthcare companies. So, they create an efficient, safe, and reliable laboratory working environment and streamline the entire process.



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