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Radiation exposure: what are your obligations as an employer?

Post date: 05/03/2024 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 05/03/2024

In dental practices, the common use of x-ray machines necessitates clear obligations for employers to ensure workforce safety. Operating x-ray machines securely is crucial to safeguarding patients, the public, and the workforce from the risks associated with ionising radiation. This article by the experts at Croner aims to offer a summary on best practices for the safe operation of x-ray machines, enabling dental practices to uphold safety standards effectively.


What are the main risks?

Reports from the National Institute of Health detail that x-ray exposure is associated with increased risks of:

  • Brain cancer
  • Tumours of the parotid gland
  • Breast cancer
  • Thyroid cancer

Although radiation doses have reduced as medical technology developed, it’s still important to proactively implement safety measures to mitigate the above risks.


What legislation is applicable?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sets out the legislation which defines the guidelines for working x-rays. These legislations are:

  • Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017 (IRR17)
  • Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2019 (REPPIR).
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations


Notifying HSE

X-ray machines should not be used within a practice unless the employer has notified the HSE of the activities to be conducted. Owners of multiple dental practices can submit a single application for all sites under their control where they carry out work with ionising radiation. 

The practice must be registered with the HSE for the duration in which they are conducting activities using ionising radiation.

If the practice ceases to conduct activities using ionising radiation, they must notify HSE immediately.


Risk assessments 

Employers must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk to any employee and other persons, in order to determine the required measures to restrict the exposure to such employee or persons. Employers must demonstrate that:

  • All hazards that may cause a radiation accident have been identified
  • The nature and severity of risks to employees and other persons have been evaluated
  • That all reasonably practical steps have been taken to:
    • Prevent Radiation accidents
    • Limit the consequence of any radiation accident
    • Provide employees with the relevant training and equipment to restrict expose to radiation


Consulting a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) 

Employers must consult one or more RPA to ensure compliance with IRR17. An RPA must hold a valid certificate of competence from an organisation recognised by HSE. A list of individual RPAs holding current certificates awarded by the assessing body RPA2000 can be found here. 

RPAs will advise on the following:

  • Prior assessment of installation plans
  • Acceptance into service of engineering controls, design features,
  • Safety and warning devices in relation to new or modified radiation sources
  • Drafting and review of risk assessment, local rules and contingency plans
  • Designation of controlled and supervised areas and subsequent requirements
  • Working arrangements for pregnant employees
  • Calibration of radiation monitoring equipment and checks on its condition
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Designation of classified persons and personal dosimetry 
  • Training programmes
  • Prevention, investigation and analysis of accidents 
  • Quality assurance 
  • Periodic testing of engineering controls, design features, safety and warning devices and regular checking of systems of work

Practice Principal members of Dental Protection can access expert Croner’s HR and H&S support at no additional cost. Contact the Croner advisors today on 0844 561 8133 and quote 60000.

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