What is an RPA (Radiation Protection Adviser)?

Source: Ionactive Radiation Protection Resources

If you have landed here from a search and need advice right now, then head over to Ionactive Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) services.

What is a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA)?

A Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) is a radiation safety professional as defined by the UK Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17). The requirement for a RPA is defined in IRR17 (14) - Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) .

Generally an employer in the UK needs to at least consult with an RPA, and in most cases appoint them, where they work with ionising radiation (e.g. radioactive substances in the form of sealed or unsealed sources and / or with radiation generators such as x-ray equipment). This could also include those employers who have employees which may be occupationally exposed to naturally occurring radioactive radon gas in the workplace.

Consultation may include, for example, initial advice and a discussion on the scope of the advice required. Formal appointment will be in writing (this being a legal requirement in IRR17) and this will include the scope of the appointment and the advice required.

Mandatory consultation requires the following to be considered (schedule 4 of IRR17)

  • Advice on controlled and supervised areas.
  • Advice on new radiation sources, and associated plant and equipment.
  • Advice on the use and calibration of radiation / contamination monitoring equipment.
  • Advice on the examination, maintenance, investigation and testing of engineering controls (interlocks, warning features and design aspects) for restriction of exposure to ionising radiation.

Other matters subject to RPA advice will include:

  • Radiation risk assessment.
  • Designation of controlled and supervised areas.
  • Taking part in investigations (e.g. where a formal dose investigation level is exceeded).
  • Advice on contingency plans for identified reasonably foreseeable radiation accidents (including advice where plans are not required).
  • Advice on dose assessment and records (e.g. use of active and passive dosimetry).
  • Advice on practical radiation protection (time, distance, shielding, PPE and RPE) and ALARP.
  • Advice on the role of the Radiation Protection Supervisor (RPS), including training requirements.
  • Advice on radiation protection awareness training for employees and contractors.
  • Assistance with applying for an HSE registration.
  • Assistance with applying for an HSE consent, including creation of the safety assessment (SA).

We need a notification, registration or consent (IRR17) - do we need an RPA?

If an employer needs a notification, registration or consent from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to work with ionising , then a RPA will need to be appointed. During your application you will digitally sign a declaration and this includes provision of RPA advice. [Links above take you to Ionactive guidance on each].

Examples of types of work with ionising radiation that will need a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) appointed

The following list is not exhaustive but will show you the types of work with ionising radiation that will required an RPA to be appointed. In no particular order...

  • Airport x-ray security screening (carry on and checked baggage).
  • Cargo and freight (x-ray screening systems).
  • Use of Explosive trace detection (ETD) - using radioactive Ni-63 sources.
  • Use of x-ray systems in medical applications (e.g. diagnostic radiology).
  • Use of accelerators in medical radiotherapy, cargo screening and industrial radiography.
  • Use of accelerators in industrial irradiation.
  • Use of x-ray systems in quality assurance (e.g. x-ray inspection of products).
  • Use of x-ray systems in quality assurance in the food and brewing industry.
  • Use of x-ray systems in material identification (XRF) and structure analysis (XRD).
  • Use of x-ray systems in museums to investigate structural properties.
  • Use of radioactive materials (sealed sources) in measurement gauges and process control.
  • Use of radioactive materials (unsealed sources) in research (e.g. university etc).
  • Use of radioactive materials in industrial radiography.
  • Use of radioactive materials in medical treatments (e.g. brachytherapy).
  • Use of radioactive material in medical diagnostics (e.g. PET / SPECT).

And so on. The message is that if you use ionising radiation in the workplace, or are exposed to radon gas in the workplace, you are likely to need a need a RPA.

Do I need an RPA if I need a registration?

Notwithstanding the general list above, you will need an RPA where you undertake one or more of the following certain practices which require a registration.

  • Use of artificial radionuclides (except those that could be covered under a notification , or where they are used in specified practices outlined below).
  • Use of naturally occurring radionuclides (does not include occupational exposure to radon which would require a notification).
  • Use of a radiation generator (typically an x-ray unit - but does not include generators which are covered under the specified practices outlined below).

Do I need an RPA if I need a consent?

The answer is yes, and covers the following specified practices.

  • Deliberate administration of radioactive substances to persons and, in so far as the radiation protection of persons is concerned, animals for the purpose of medical or veterinary diagnosis, treatment or research.
  • Deliberate addition of radioactive substances in the production or manufacture of consumer products or other products, including medicinal products.
  • Operation of an accelerator (except when operated for industrial radiography or irradiation, or where an electron microscope is used).
  • Industrial radiography.
  • Industrial irradiation.
  • Practices involving a high-activity sealed source (other than Industrial Radiography or Irradiation which have their own consent class).
  • Operation, decommissioning or closure of any facility for the long-term storage or disposal of radioactive waste (including facilities managing radioactive waste for this purpose) but not any such facility situated on a site licensed under section 1 of the Nuclear Installations Act 1965.
  • Practices discharging significant amounts of radioactive material with airborne or liquid effluent into the environment.

So we need an RPA - what do we need to do?

Determine core competence of the RPA. Ensure that the RPA is certificated and you many also consider using a RPA body. Our blog article 'RPA and RPA Bodies recognised by HSE' will explain the difference between the two. You can check out Ionactive certifications by downloading, for example, the CV of Mark Ramsay (will open in new tab as a PDF).

Ensure RPA is suitable for your specific need (what is their experience). It is important to pick an RPA who can demonstrate experience of providing advice in your specific area of work.

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