Association of University Radiation Protection Officers

HERT Working Group for Radiation Safety Culture

Radiation Safety Culture (RSC) for Higher Education, Research and Teaching (HERT)

AURPO is one of the The Society for Radiological Protection (SRP) partner societies, SRP being the UK’s Associate society to the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA).

In 2014 IRPA published a document on Guiding Principles for Establishing a Radiation Safety Culture, that aims to to help equip radiation protection professionals to promote a successful RP culture in their organisation, an excerpt of which is given below.

The IRPA Guiding Principles for Radiation Protection Professionals on Stakeholder Engagement

Radiological Protection Professionals should endeavour to:

  1. Identify opportunities for engagement and ensure the level of engagement is proportional to the nature of the radiation protection issues and their context.
  2. Initiate the process as early as possible, and develop a sustainable implementation plan.
  3. Enable an open, inclusive and transparent stakeholder engagement process.
  4. Seek out and involve relevant stakeholders and experts.
  5. Ensure that the roles and responsibilities of all participants, and the rules for cooperation are clearly defined.
  6. Collectively develop objectives for the stakeholder engagement process, based on a shared understanding of issues and boundaries.
  7. Develop a culture which values a shared language and understanding, and favours collective learning.
  8. Respect and value the expression of different perspectives.
  9. Ensure a regular feedback mechanism is in place to inform and improve current and future stakeholder engagement processes.
  10. Apply the IRPA Code of Ethics in their actions within these processes to the best of their knowledge.

Radiation Safety Culture Working Groups

Since then, one of  SRP’s Goals has been to “promote a strong Radiation Protection Culture in the UK” and five Working Groups have been setup to develop and implement work programmes:

  1. Co-ordinating Working Group
  2. Medical
  3. Higher Education, Research & Teaching (HERT)
  4. Nuclear
  5. General Users

The HERT Working Group

AURPO is leading the HERT Working Group (WG) on Radiation Safety Culture (RSC) and has been undertaking work to look at RSC within the HERT sector.

Initial Work

A paper was published in the Journal of Radiological Protection on the initial work by the HERT WG, it is freely available:

The advantages of creating a positive radiation safety culture in the higher education and research sectors.
T Coldwell et al. 2015 J. Radiol. Prot. 35 917

What Constitutes a Good Approach to Radiation Safety Culture?

10 Points for Radiation Safety Culture in the HERT Sector

The following points could be used to incorporate suitable questions into general inspection regimes, to develop metrics for inclusion in Standards, and to input into training at all levels. Each ‘Culture factor’ has a number of suggested performance indicators that might be used to assess it.

  1. Engagement of management
    • Senior management understand their role and responsibility in relation to radiation safety.
    • There exists a clear management structure for radiation safety with link to Executive Board (or equivalent).
    • The radiation safety policy contains clear descriptions of management responsibilities and how these are audited.
    • Evidence of clear communication between staff on radiation safety issues
  1. Appropriate training 
    • Appropriate radiation safety training/qualifications are included in relevant job descriptions
    • Induction training contains appropriate level of radiation safety training – including general awareness training for non-radiation workers
    • Radiation workers and individuals with recognised roles under any radiation legislation have documented update training at specified intervals
    • Evidence that training complies with best practice guidelines if/when available from professional bodies
    • There exists a programme of appropriate refresher training at specific time intervals e.g. every 3 to 5 years
  1. Regular audit / inspection of radiation safety procedures / practices
    • Schedule of in-house audits including internal compliance audits with Local Rules and legislation
    • Schedule of in-house inspections of radiation facilities and practices
    • Review of recent audit results of Local Rules and legislative compliance
    • Review of recent inspection results and legislative compliance
    • Schedule of RP audits by ‘independent’ RPE or other suitable recognised expert including a review of the top level policies and procedures and how they match against sector best practice and/or legislative requirements.
  1. Appropriate management of radioactive materials and radiation generating equipment
    • Documented management system in place
    • Evidence of equipment replacement programme
    • Evidence of Service/Maintenance contracts
    • Evidence of QA (both equipment & standard operating procedures)
    • Evidence of action on QA results
    • Evidence of audit of RAM policy & procedures
    • Disposal records
    • Compliance with Permits or equivalent RSA compliance schedules
    • Non-compliance notices from external inspections recorded and made available on company/university intranet.
    • Documented use of appropriate guidelines
    • Evidence of culture where by staff/students are given the authority to challenge inappropriate actions and stop using ionising radiation where they feel it is unsafe.
  1. Appropriate appointment & use of Recognised Experts & Officers
    • Policy level statement of their appointment and proper consultation with them
    • Evidence of appointment of suitable numbers of qualified RPA/RWA/MPE
    • Evidence of Action following reports from Experts
    • Evidence of appointment of Radiation Protection Committee
    • Appointment of suitable number of Radiation Protection Supervisors
  1. Management of staff doses
    • Policy of endeavouring to optimise staff doses to ALARP
    • There exists a defined management system for the personal dosimetry
    • Number of incomplete dose records (i.e. lost/damaged dosimetry)
    • Evidence (e.g. in written reports) of routine checking of doses against investigation levels and any unexpected doses
    • Typical and maximum doses for different staff roles
    • Results of audit of use, checking, and storage of PPE
    • Audit of compliance with Local Rules
  1. Appropriate Incident handling
    • Documented procedures for handling radiation incidents
    • Evidence of rehearsals and training for dealing with incidents
    • Evidence of timely reporting & investigation of incidents
    • Evidence of involvement of appropriate managers
    • Actions plans for lessons learned and implementation of any new procedures
    • Evidence of culture of ‘openness’ in reporting
  1. Effective Communication
    • RP issues are on agenda of staff meetings – ‘learning from experience’ is shared
    • Staff have access to managers to raise concerns
    • Staff have access to union safety officers to raise concerns
    • Staff have access to ‘mentors/guardians’ to raise concerns
    • Management and advisers regularly communicate RP performance to relevant staff
    • Radiation safety newsletter for all staff – to which staff can contribute
    • Good practice is proactively shared and celebrated
    • A system is in place to ensure effective communication with external employers e.g. suppliers of outside workers or host organisations.
    • Social media (Twitter) usage to share opinions and feedback on radiation safety issues as long as such communications do not conflict with matters of security
  1. Resources
    • There is evidence that radiation safety practices and reasonably foreseeable interventions are suitably resourced in terms of equipment and manpower
  1. Professional Societies
    • Members of staff are encouraged to join relevant radiation-related professional societies

Current Work

Of particular interest is the development of tools which can be used to measure the current state of RSC and develop it in a positive direction.

As part of this, a brief online survey was disseminated to all ionising radiation and non-ionising radiation stakeholders in the HERT sector. The results have been analysed and a presentation was delivered to the IRPA European Congress in The Hague, Netherlands, in June 2018.

You can view a PDF version of it here: Presentation of the HERT Radiation Safety Culture Research Results.

Next Step

The next step is to write a paper for submission to a journal with our findings and recommendations.

Updates will be provided here as and when they’re available.