Do I need an RPA? Do I need Local Rules or an RPS?

"Do I need a RPA?" , "Do I need a RPS?" and "Do I need local rules?" are questions we are often asked. So here we provide some answers.

  • Difference between a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) and a Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA)?
  • Do I need a RPA (Radiation Protection Adviser)
  • Do I need a RPS (Radiation Protection Supervisor)
  • Do I need local rules?

Difference between a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) and a Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA)?

Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) must not be confused with the role of the Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA). Confusion may arise since the RPA had provided the role of an RWA, all but in name, prior to 2012. In fact, in many cases, your appointed RPA continues to do exactly what they did before (with respect to radioactive substances and waste disposal), but they will do this whilst wearing their specific ‘RWA’ hat. In addition, the Radioactive Waste Adviser should be appointed in writing – in most cases this can be added to the traditional RPA appointment letter (unless the roles of RPA and RWA are undertaken by different individuals).

Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA)

The Radiation Protection Adviser is a requirement of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17) which deals with the safe and compliant use of all sources of ionising radiation (sealed and unsealed radioactive sources and all forms of electrically generated ionising radiation). These regulations deal with employee and public safety, and this is primarily what the RPA provides advice on.

For users who work with radioactive sources (either sealed or unsealed) or radioactive waste, there is a requirement for having permits in place. These permits contain a number of conditions that the user must comply with. Traditionally the RPA has provided advice on compliance, and early permits (and the former Registrations and Authorisations) made reference to consulting an RPA or other suitable persons (Qualified Expert). At the EU level, there was never any distinction between an RPA or RWA – only the term Qualified Expert is recognised.

With the recent changes to radioactive legislation such as the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 in England / Wales, and the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018, the role of the Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA) has been formally adopted. An RPA can only act as an RWA if they have approval from the UK Environmental Agencies.

Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA)

A Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA) is a specialist in radioactive waste accumulation disposal, and environmental radiation protection. Through certification, they have demonstrated competence against an RWA syllabus which has been developed by the UK Environmental Agencies.

All users of radioactive material which leads to the potential or actual accumulation or dispose of radioactive waste need to appoint an RWA. Except in rare cases (i.e. where out-of-scope or exemption criteria applies), if you have a permit issued under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 or an Authorisation issued under the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018, then you must have an RWA in place, and appointed in writing.

Before appointing a RWA you should ensure that they are certificated to act as such. This is similar to ensuring that you check the RPA is competent to act in the role (e.g. via a RPA 2000 certificate). In both cases the certification only proves competence – the user / employer is responsible for ensuring that the RPA / RWA is suitable for a specific case.

Do I need a RPA (Radiation Protection Adviser)

Under the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17), in practically all circumstances there is a legal requirement to at least consult with an RPA in respect of working with ionising radiations (be that electrically generated x-rays or radioactive materials). Radioactive materials will include work with substances that are considered naturally occurring (mineral sands, ceramics based on zircon sand and similar).

In most cases there is a requirement to make that consultation more formal. For large organisations like the Nuclear Industry, the RPA is likely to be ‘in-house’. For smaller organisations, or larger organisations where work with ionising radiation only forms a small part of the business, it is more likely that the RPA will be appointed externally – normal under contract.

A useful test is this: if you need to register your radiation work with HSE, or apply for a consent (for higher risk radiation sources), then you will need a Radiation Protection Adviser. Some useful resource can be found at the following HSE page: Notify, register or consent (HSE). Some additional HSE guidance on the application process can be found here: Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 - Guidance for Notifications, Registrations and Consents (HSE).

Do you need a Radiation Protection Adviser for your company? Visit our RPA service page.

Do I need a RPS (Radiation Protection Supervisor)

You need a RPS (Radiation Protection Supervisor) where ever you have local rules.

The requirement for the RPS is specified in Regulation 18 of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17).

To decide if you need local rules (you will!), and therefore the RPS, please consult the FAQ 'Do I need Local Rules'.

Do I need local rules?

We see this question a lot – the answer to this is also closely related to ‘Do I need an RPS’.

The requirements for local rules are specified in Regulation 18 and Regulation 19 of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17). Strictly speaking, if you have a Controlled Area or Supervised Area (these terms being explained in Regulation 17), then you need Local Rules. Regulation 18 allows a degree of flexibility with regards Supervised Areas (‘..where appropriate having regard for the nature of the work carried out..’). However, our advice is wherever you have a Controlled or Supervised Area you have local rules.

I do not have a designated area (or do I....)

So, the question then arises... but what do I do if I do not have a designated area? Do I still need local rules?

Firstly, let us provide some examples of ionising radiation use where you might expect to find areas that are unlikely to be designated. Examples would include: use of a small x-ray baggage scanner in an airport public area, use of an x-ray machine for quality control checks in the food industry, use of a simple level gauge containing a radioactive source (designation of area around gauge could be required in some circumstances), use of shielded bench top XRF equipment, use of shielded x-ray inspection equipment in the electronics industry etc.

Note: In the case of the above mentioned x-ray cabinet systems, whilst the area they are used in will not be designated, it is likely that the area inside will be designated as controlled. Generally where an area cannot be worked in or entered then it could be argued that no controlled area exists. However, recent HSE visits in the food sector have shown that they still expect even the smallest cabinets to be controlled (internally) due to the special procedures employed during handover and hand back of the area (unit) to a service engineer. This is to ensure that safety systems and shielding are in place such that no controlled area would exist outside the confines of the x-ray unit.

So, do we need local rules if an area that does not need to be controlled? Under IRR17 the strict answer is ‘No’. Furthermore, if you do not need local rules you do not need a RPS. Is that the final answer? NO!

Firstly, you need to consider the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. They require that you have Health and Safety Arrangements and Health and Safety Assistance. Effectively, your Safety Arrangements are your Local Rules and your Assistance is the RPS.

The bottom Line

Our advice is that regardless of your area designation, you should have local rules where ever you have a source of ionising radiation. Clearly, for those most simple sources or where you do not have a designated area, the local rules will be very simple and may not (or cannot) contain all the usual mandatory information (e.g. dose investigation level). This will ensure that you are meeting best practice, and complying with all the requirements of IRR17. As RPA we expected to see this at all our clients, and we also believe the HSE would expect to see this too.

Final Thought

Where local rules are not strictly required under IRR17, and in the case where you are using radioactive materials, you still need to consider record keeping, security of the source and all the other matters required under environmental legislation). Whilst many of these are not subject to IRR17 consideration, the use of local rules in non designated area situations still makes sense to ensure you are meeting your obligations under ALL relevant legislation.