Radiation Safety Officers – The Linchpin of Every Radiation Safety Program
Radiation Safety Officers - The Linchpin of Every Radiation Safety Program
The importance of a Radiation Safety Officer (or RSO) to an organization cannot be overstated. An RSO is a key piece of an organization's Radiation Safety Committee (RSC).
In this article we will explore the path someone takes to become an RSO, as well as the role they play in implementing and maintaining an organization's radiation safety program.
As always, we hope you find this article informative, and we look forward to hearing your feedback!
How To Become a Radiation Safety Officer
Qualifications for a Radiation Safety Officer vary both by the industry that the organization operates in, as well as the radioactive materials and radiation producing machines that the organization works with. The requirements are generally quite stringent and can include either in-person or online training courses.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requires any organization that uses radioactive material to have a licensed and designated Radiation Safety Officer.
An aspiring Radiation Safety Officer should obtain the training in a formal course designed for RSOs and organized by an academic institution, commercial radiation safety consulting company, or professional organization of radiation protection experts.
Training for a Type C license provides the knowledge and skills needed to successfully implement a radiation protection program in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, university, hospital, or medical laboratory setting.
Common topics covered in these courses may include:
- Radiation and radioisotopes
- The effects of ionizing radiation exposure on human health
- Radiation dosimetry, radiation detection instrumentation, and protection
- Safe handling and disposal of radioisotopes
- Inventory control
- Record keeping and adherence to regulatory requirements
- Transportation of radioactive materials
- Hazard & risk assessment, reduction, and communication
- Employee bioassay program
- Emergency management, personnel contamination, and response
Generally, the objectives of these courses include:
- Gaining expertise in maintaining compliance with radionuclide permit and licensing requirements at a local, state, and national level
- Creating and maintaining a safe working environment
- Assessing potential radiation risks and relevant personnel health effects
- Developing a work plan for employees to effectively reduce or eliminate risk
- Understanding and applying health physics and medical physics practices in a laboratory setting
- Learning the management of radiological solid and liquid waste
- Understanding regulatory requirements and expectations
- Gaining hands-on experience with instrumentation (i.e. dosimetry badges)
- Applying “tools of the trade” upon the return to your organization, with a comprehensive resource guide at your disposal
Type C licenses require 40 hours of training, but don't include the medical use of radionuclides or fluoroscopic imaging.
The amount of training and experience needed will depend on the type, form, quantity, and proposed use of the licensed material requested.
Please check out our recent blog, "The Importance of a Radioactive Material License" to learn more about the process the NRC uses to issue licenses to organizations for the possession and use of nuclear materials.
RSO training and certification can be very different from industry to industry. While an RSO at a manufacturing company should be a radiation protection specialist (and may need a specified amount of hours of radiation safety training specific to their job duties), an RSO at an importer receiving finished products may only require a few hours of radiation safety training, and no prior experience in the field to be qualified as an RSO.
RSOs at clinical nuclear medicine facilities need specialized training and experience relevant to their daily responsibilities and potential dangers. Similarly, an RSO at an engineering or biological science organization would have a different set of trainings and responsibilities.
The Role of Radiation Safety Officers
A Radiation Safety Officer is responsible for the implementation, coordination, and day-to-day supervision of a company’s radiation safety program. The RSO is responsible for following all federal, state, and local regulations.
An RSO also has the authority to enforce radiation policies and procedures with respect to both radiation safety aspects and regulatory compliance. An RSO should have experience planning and conducting evaluations, performing related radiation surveys, and measurements required by the organization's Radiation Safety Program.
An RSO's training and experience must be sufficient to identify and control any of the potential or anticipated radiation hazards.
Responsibilities of a Radiation Safety Officer include:
- Researching and complying with both new and existing radiation guidelines
- Managing an organization's radiation safety programs
- Measuring the radiation levels of product, material, and/or facility
- Supervising personnel working with radioactive materials
- Developing and maintaining radiation handling procedures
- Creating and adhering to departmental budgets
- Preparing research reports about radioactive material handling
- Auditing and improving the organization's radiation safety programs
Ensuring Safe Dealings With Radioactive Materials
In its simplest form, the responsibility of an RSO is to ensure an organization's safe dealings with radioactive materials.
Industries that most commonly rely on RSOs include health care, construction, research, pharmaceutical, government, and education.
In addition to the Type C license which we detailed above, other common RSO licenses include:
- Type A license
- Type B license
- Broad scope general license
- Manufacturing license
- Academic research license
- Irradiator license
- Commercial radiopharmacy license
- Medical license
- Industrial radiography license
- X-Ray license
Certain licenses require the presence of a preceptor radiation safety officer, whose job it is to bridge the gap between theoretical learning and applying these learnings to day-to-day practice.
Implementation and Maintenance of a Radiation Safety Program
An organization's Radiation Safety Committee is responsible for the implementation and maintenance of the organization's radiation safety program.
The RSC is made up of an RSO, a management representative, and personnel who work with radiation-producing devices or are otherwise at risk of occupational exposure.
Ultimately, the RSC is the organization's governing body for all aspects of radiation protection in the workplace.
As we laid out in our recent blog, “Radiation Safety Programs: A Comprehensive Guide,” an effective radiation safety program includes:
- A dosimetry program in which personal exposure monitoring is conducted as required by federal or state regulations.
- Surveys and area monitoring to document elevated radiation levels, contamination with radioactive materials, and potential occupational exposures.
- Radiological controls, including entry and exit controls, receiving, inventory control, storage, and disposal.
- Proper training for workers with respect to radiation protection, including the negative health effects associated with ionizing radiation dose.
- Emergency procedures to recognize and respond to radiological emergency situations.
- Accurate reporting to maintain all records and provide dosimetry reports and notifications.
- Internal procedures to audit all aspects of the radiation program annually to ensure adequate protection.
How RDC Can Help Your Organization's RSO
Radiation Detection Company (RDC) is dedicated to your safety and the safety of all of your employees. We have almost 75 years of experience providing quality dosimetry solutions to over 27,000 companies across the US.
RDC offers a suite of products to assist your company's Radiation Safety Officer in providing personnel with solutions that are right for them. Please visit our Solutions page to view our extensive offerings.
We offer a wide range of affordable and comprehensive solutions to fit the needs of organizations no matter the size.
Have a question that we did not address in this article? Please reach out to our Customer Care team, and one of our specialists will be happy to support you.