Many employers are aware that they need to safeguard their employees and cover such hazards as manual handling, slips and trips, ergonomics and fire prevention and escape. These all form part of the health and safety risk assessment. However many employers are unaware of the requirement to carry out radon risk assessments. This is part of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 act which requires the assessment of health and safety risks and this should include Radon.
High radon levels within buildings can be considered an engineering fault. Therefore employers have a legal duty, under the Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999, to ensure that employees are not exposed to concentrations exceeding the workplace Action Level of 400 Bq m-3. Should radon levels exceed this, provision should immediately be put in place to reduce Radon levels or manage exposure.
If a workplace is located within a radon affected area, radon testing is a legal requirement. If a workplace falls close to a radon affected area, or if a precautionary approach is taken, radon testing should be considered as part of a building’s safety policy. Most buildings or parts of buildings fall below action levels; however testing may show that something needs to be done about radon – remember that the radon atlas is indicative, so there will be areas which are affected which were not identified through mapping. Underground workplaces such as basements mines, caves and utility industry service ducts can have significant levels of radon as can any above-ground workplaces in radon Affected Areas.
All workplaces including factories, offices, shops, classrooms, nursing homes, residential care homes and health centres can be affected. Whilst employers who only occupy parts of buildings from the first floor and above are unlikely to have significant radon levels, employers who use cellars, basements and poorly ventilated ground floor rooms are far more likely to have problems with radon levels regardless of geographically location.
Any employer whose workplace is deemed to be at higher risk due to either its location or the fact it has a basement (including home workers) must carry out radon testing before the risk assessment can be completed.
It is important to be aware Radon is known to be associated with rocks and soils which include granite and shale. The probability of encountering high radon levels has been mapped for the UK in the ‘Indicative Radon Atlas’. Shaded parts of the radon atlas are classed as ‘Radon Affected Areas’. It is important to remember that the ‘Radon Atlas’ is indicative; the only way to know if radon is present is to test for it. Studies have shown that the importations of contaminated rocks in to the sub-base of buildings are a major factor in the contribution to radon gas.