Why do you have to stay outside the barricades?

In the field, every radiographer has heard “Why do I have to stay out, when they’re walking around in there?” “What makes is safe for you, but not for me?” “Are you wearing lead underwear?”

When the dangerous substance is invisible, odorless, and can’t be felt, it may be difficult to believe it’s dangerous. So people question why they need to stay away.

There are several reasons why workers who are not Nuclear Energy Workers (NEW’s) must stay out of the area:

Non-NEW’s carry no alarming equipment.

The people with permission to be inside the barricades are Nuclear Energy Workers (NEWs), and have been educated as to the hazards, how to avoid over exposure, and know what their measuring and alarming equipment is telling them. They don’t go anywhere without it, and if you don’t have it, you may be in danger.

Non-NEW’s carry no monitoring equipment.

Radiation workers carry monitoring equipment at all times, which continuously and passively records their radiation exposure. They check this equipment through the day to make sure they haven’t had something unexpected happen.

NEW’s are part of a federal monitoring program which records their exposure, and keeps track of their total dose for life.

Non-NEW’s could be exposed to a high dose without knowing it.

When you can see the barricades, it means we’re exposing the radioactive source in order to get an important image; looking for people who are not supposed to be inside the barricades won’t speed things up.

The danger is low, but serious. Caution, not panic, is required.

In order for any person to receive a dose of ionizing radiation large enough to cause harm, MANY layers of safety practices and equipment need to fail all at once. This makes the likelihood of a dangerous dose VERY low, but with serious consequences. As professional radiographers we follow strict laws that govern our practices and procedures, laws that are designed to protect the public and ourselves from a high dose of radiation. In an industrial setting, it’s not very complex: DON’T duck under the barricade to cut across the plant; DON’T ignore the warning signs that have been posted for your safety; DO look for the radiographer making the exposures, to double check you’re in a safe spot; and ALWAYS read your Safe Work Permit – it will have the details you need to avoid unsafe conditions.

What is your favourite experience trying to explain why some are inside, and some outside the barriers?

Rachel Grierbarricades