Professionals who work with radiation technologies need to thoroughly protect themselves. From this article, you will get to know which measures they take and which organizations set the standards that workers can rely on.
X-rays have been widely used in medicine. The technologies that rely on them evolve rapidly. Over time, diagnostic and interventional radiology is becoming more accurate and powerful. However, the radiation remains highly dangerous for living creatures. This is why professionals who have to deal with it as a part of their usual workflow must rigorously stick to precaution measures. Nurses, technicians, physicians and medical physicists suffer from the largest exposure to artificial sources of radiation. The readers of this article will get to know how workers protect themselves from radiation and which organizations issue regulatory documents for the sphere of radiology.
Who Is at Risk
Professionals who deal with the following techniques are the most exposed to radiation:
- Computed tomography
- General radiography
- Interventional radiology
The extent of exposure might vary according to the type and complexity of the procedure. Sometimes, there would be a fixed installation in the medical room. In this case, the occupational exposure of professionals is not too high because there are shielding barriers in the premise.
But fluoroscopy, for instance, might involve interventional procedures. Physicians who need to work close to the patient might be subject to large radiation doses. Without proper protection, they might be prone to cataract damage and other deterministic effects, up to stochastic ones (in everyday language, this means cancer).
How Can Professionals Decrease Their Radiation Exposure
To minimize the amount of ionizing radiation that their bodies absorb, workers resort to the following measures.
- Their workplaces are controlled and supervised.
- The imaging equipment and other facilities are designed to reduce the level of radiation.
- Individual radiation monitoring is carried out regularly.
- Workers spend minimum time being exposed to radiation.
- When specialists carry out the procedures, they keep a maximum distance between themselves and the source of radiation.
- Professionals wear thyroid shields, leaded glass eyewear and lead-lined aprons.
- They use protective screens.
While providing sufficient security for themselves, workers need to think about the general public too. Patients and visitors are not allowed to enter certain areas with radiologic equipment in hospitals. Professionals never direct X-ray tubes towards halls, stairs or other public spaces that people use frequently.
When implementing solutions that help to reduce radiation exposure, specialists need to remember an important rule. If they configure the equipment and modify their workflow so that the patients receive minimum radiation, then the staff will be less exposed to the radiation too. Yet it is possible to reduce the staff’s exposure to the radiation so that the patients will still receive the dose that they need for diagnostics and treatment.
Before young specialists start to work in a radiology department, they complete trainings. Education is vital for this sphere. Professionals need to have a profound understanding of radiation spectra, the methods of measuring radiation and ways of combatting the negative impact of the radiation on the human body. They should systematically raise their qualification and learn how to deal with advanced technological solutions.
How Do Professionals Calculate Radiation Exposure Limits
The acceptable exposure doses for professionals are not identical to those that apply to the general public. They are calculated for a certain period of time. Doctors would never subject a person to radiation exposure unless it is absolutely necessary. Among themselves, professionals consider such a dose normal that does not exceed the limit.
The limits are determined by International Basic Safety Standards. The national legislation should rely on this set of documents when regulating the usage of radiology technologies in the country. These standards were compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The most recent edition saw light in 2014. The previous versions were released in 2011 and 1996. The IAEA systematically updates this set of norms, taking into account the latest scientific discoveries.
Besides, in certain circumstances, a toddler or a sick grown-up requires the support of an attendant (for children, it will most likely be their parents). The acceptable level of exposure for the attendant will be higher than for the general public. The exact limits are indicated in the above-mentioned International Basic Safety Standards plus the documents issued by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. This non-governmental organization operates on a global level. It started to publish recommendations in 2007 and hold international symposia in 2011. Most documents that describe safety measures for the usage of radiology are publicly accessible and people can download them at no charge.
What Do Companies Do to Minimize Radiation-Related Risks
The Department of Health has a right to inspect organizations that employ radiation technologies. It might request business owners to inform each of their staff members in written form about the level of their annual exposure. Employers need to rely on the regulations of the Department of Health in their daily work. They must inform all their employees about it and guarantee them access to key documents issued by the Department.
If staff members suspect that radiological equipment malfunctions or the level of protection is not sufficient, they must inform their employer about it. If the employer makes no attempts to fix the situation, professionals have a right to report the problem directly to the Department of Health.
In emergency situations, it might happen so that specialists will be subjected to overexposure. In this case, the employer needs to send them a written notification about it within 30 days after they got to know about the overexposure.
Radiation technologies enable doctors to accurately diagnose diseases and efficiently treat them. The solutions that they apply become more and more advanced — yet the radiation itself is just as harmful for human bodies as it always was. To make the most of these procedures and minimize their detrimental effects, professionals need to thoroughly comply with the safety standards. The norms for applying radiology safely are formulated by international bodies. Within the country, the Department of Health makes sure that companies stick to these standards. Education and raising the qualification of medical specialists are vital for the safe implementation of radiology procedures.