Online radiation awareness training – x-ray screening in the food industry

Welcome to our blog article celebrating the release of our latest online radiation protection awareness course for users of x-ray screening equipment in the food industry.

Whilst we would love all visitors to this blog to get stuck into this article, there is a chance that Google (et al) has directed you here, and all you want is to actually take the course! If this is the case then feel free to click on the following link and go directly to the course : Radiation Safety Awareness: X-ray screening systems in the food industry course.

For those interested in our thought process, then stay with us.

Online radiation protection awareness course - thinking aloud

We are pleased to announce Ionactive has a new online course out this month! With nearly 500 delegates registered on our online RPS training course, we thought it was time to release an awareness level course. It is true that this has been advertised for some time, but as is life there have been lots of competing priorities. However, in the last month we received requests for a total of 45 delegates to receive radiation awareness training, so we decided now was the time to get this course over the line!

In some ways a full RPS (Radiation Protection Supervisor) course is easier to produce and release – generally you throw everything at it! Awareness level training is more difficult to get “just right”, and to do so you really need to know about the delegates you are going train. Fortunately, Ionactive is RPA (Radiation Protection Adviser) to many end users of x-ray screening equipment. We are often seen on site, undertaking critical examinations and radiation monitoring surveys. We get to meet operators, engineers and supervisors and often have a chat about their specific use of ionising radiation. This really helps in determining the audience and developing content for the training course.

Who wants to "big up" radiation?

In our experience the radiation protection community loves to “big up” radiation! One of our goals over two decades has been to demystify the subject and not make radiation “special” or “mysterious”. Yes – it is both (!), but we do not bang on about it 😊

For example, consider the effects of ionising radiation on the body from occupational radiation exposure. At the RPS / RPA (or higher level) we might want to explain, wait for it (!), the “biological effects of ionising radiation”. We love doing that, and our RPS course spends some time looking at this subject. However, at the awareness level “biological effects” is unnecessary and quite frankly a turn off. We emphasise this is NOT about the audience’s capability of understanding this subject. Rather, their day job is to get on with X-ray screening for food quality, and what they need to know is “are they safe”, and “what to do if in doubt”. We strongly believe that talk of biological effects, stochastic or deterministic radiation effects (etc), serves no purpose what so ever!

Risk comparators

Risk comparators are our thing!

The Ionactive way is to use risk comparators.

Module 3 banana with dose data

The popular, if slight technically dodgy, use of the banana!

Yes, we do mention the sievert (Sv) and dose rate in general (i.e. micro Sv/h), but only to provide a scale by which to measure things by. There is no need at the awareness level to link radiation exposure (Sv) to excess cancer risk or anything similar.

For example, we might explain that the industry “standard” (it is not a legal limit) for dose rate around the outside of an x-ray screening system is no more than 1 micro Sv/h. We will not deal with semantics like “at what distance” or “at 10 cm from the surface”. Instead we will discuss this value and relate to things that the delegate may experience as “tangible” - a good example of this is flying at 40,000 feet above the UK, the dose rate now being about 5 micro Sv/h. Yes, we need to briefly discuss cosmic radiation, but once that is done the comparator can begin to work.

Module 3 dose rate at 40000 feet

Typical dose rate from cosmic radiation at 40,000 feet above the UK.

What operators want to know at the awareness level

At the awareness level the operator (et al) wants to know “am I safe if I do things correctly, and if I do not for whatever reason, how safe I am then?”. Comparators can answer this legitimate question – a discussion of biological effects and cancer risk is completely useless and should be avoided.

With radiation awareness level training, the skill involves deciding what to take out, rather than what to leave in. We believe we have this balance right, the delegates will be our judge.

To finish this blog article, here are a few examples of material content.

Local Rules 2
When is a shielding curtain failure, really a failure ?
Module 5 Section 2 Dose rate average
Time average dose rates (as advanced as it gets, but important to understand).
Module 4 section 3 X ray Passive Signage
Examples of passive signage likely to be found on x-ray screening equipment.

How about a course test?

Yes, there is a course test. 14 questions with a 50% pass rate (generous). However, our questions are fair and not ridiculous! We have attended too many site induction training courses along the line of “Which is the most appropriate speed limit for this site” with answers as (A) “as fast as you like”, (B) “ 5 MPH” (the correct answer !), (C) “who cares!” and (D) “ as fast as possible”.

OK, an exaggeration, but you get the point.

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If you start from nothing, it is very difficult to get anywhere

– Gerhard Herzberg -