Radiation is energy that travels from a source that is capable of penetrating materials. It can be potentially hazardous to workers in industrial facilities that contain radiation-producing equipment, such as X-Ray machines.
Before a radiation safety program can be developed, the radiation producing machines must be registered with the DEP, within 30 days that the facility has received the machine. (The form can be found here http://www.state.nj.us/dep/rpp/reg/downloads/xrayreg.pdf). Once the machine has been installed a radiation survey must be conducted by a qualified surveyor (A list of DEP qualified surveyors can be found here http://datamine2.state.nj.us/DEP_OPRA/OpraMain/categories?category=Medical+Physicists). The purpose of the survey is to verify that the specific x-ray machine is in compliance with 21 CFR Chapter I, as well as to ensure the radiation exposure limit of the machine is not exceeded.
A radiation safety program should include general radiation procedures such as wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when working with radioactive materials, labeling all equipment, containers, waste cans, etc. with universal warning labels, how to best shield radioactive materials, and how to properly dispose of radioactive wastes and clean up spills. As Low as Reasonable Achievable (ALARA), is a required safety principle that should be followed when working with radiation equipment. ALARA is practiced to ensure exposure to radiation is as far below the dose as possible and is done so in three ways, through time, distance, and shielding. By decreasing the amount of time handling or in close proximity to radiation sources, the radiation exposure is reduced. The more distance put between a person and the radioactive source, also reduces the exposure. Shielding is a method used to absorb any radiation to decrease radiation exposure when a worker must be close to the source.
Long-term exposure to radiation can cause severe health effects. Long-term radiation exposure can cause mutations in a person’s DNA and cancer. Short-term effects can cause burns and radiation sickness, such as nausea, hair loss, and diminished organ function. This is why it is important for facilities with radiation producing equipment to implement radiation safety programs. and why it is also important that radiation monitoring is conducted for exposed individuals. Radiation dosimeters (a device used to measure ionizing radiation) should be supplied to those individuals to ensure that their annual radiation exposure limits are below the Nuclear Regulatory Commission thresholds (http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part020/part020-1201.html). For more information about radiation regulations please see, http://www.nj.gov/dep/rpp/. For questions about implementing a radiation safety program in your facility, please contact Maria Maciejewski or Kaylin Mahoney.