The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 (IRR99) requires radiation employers to undertake prior risk assessments, identify all hazards with the potential to cause a radiation accident and evaluate the nature and magnitude of the risks to employees and other persons arising from those hazards.
Where a radiation risk exists from an identifiable radiation accident then the radiation employer needs to prevent any such accidents, limit the consequences if it occurs and provide employees with the information, instruction and training to restrict their exposure to radiation.
If a radiation accident is reasonably foreseeable then the radiation employer must prepare a contingency plan designed to “secure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the restriction of exposure to ionising radiation and the health and safety of persons who may be affected by such an accident”.
Everybody’s perception of what is reasonably foreseeable will be different and it is best practice to consult with a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) when drawing up or reviewing contingency plans. The range of likely incidents varies both in type and magnitude depending on the sector being worked in. The OTHEA database shares operational experience of radiological incidents in all sectors to help identify some potential reasonably foreseeable incidents for which contingency plans may be needed for.
Contingency plans should identify:
- Which postholders are responsible for putting the plan into effect
- What immediate actions for assessing the seriousness of the situation will be necessary
- What immediate mitigating actions need to be taken
- What PPE/RPE required and where it is
- Personal dosimetry requirements for those involved in controlling the accident
- What training of personnel is required
- How to obtain radiation protection expertise
- When to summon the emergency services
- What follow up dosimetry is needed
Radiation employers are required to have their contingency plans identified in their local rules and persons who may be affected by them are to be given suitable and sufficient instructions.
It is important to perform rehearsals of the contingency arrangements stated in the plan at suitable intervals to check that personnel know what to do in the event of the incident and to check that the arrangements are adequate.
The HSE has found common faults in the contingency plans of many organisations that are worthy of reflection:
- Many don’t work, mostly because they can’t be found or haven’t been rehearsed.
- Too many organisations place too much reliance on RPAs or central services. Phone the Radiation Protection Service is not a suitable contingency plan - EMPLOYEES should deal with emergencies.
- Loss or theft is one of the most common emergencies and is rarely addressed.
RP Alba Ltd can not only help you with the development of suitable contingency plans but we can also help your organisation by either running or setting exercises to test the robustness of your arrangements.
Our personnel have been involved in organising small scale tests of contingency arrangements (e.g. x-ray set doesn’t de-energise after use) up to helping to plan and exercise large scale Level 3 exercises for nuclear licensed sites (including determination of potential airborne and surface deposited contamination levels from hypothetical gaussian plume releases from exercises).
In 2011, RP Alba Ltd were asked to give a presentation on contingency plans, recovery and remediation to help set the legislative context for the Society for Radiological Protection’s meeting on Recovery and Remediation in Nairn. A copy of this presentation can be viewed here.
If you would like to discuss reviewing or developing or testing your contingency arrangements for your work with ionising radiations then please feel free to contact us today to see how we can help support your organisation.