Here we have outlined a few points that may be useful for anyone that has any concerns about the possibility of the presence of Radon Gas in there workplace.
Radon risks and exposure were historically based around miners and other occupations that worked below ground. Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas. Recent surveys indicate that buildings with small rooms, (eg offices or computer rooms where ventilation is restricted and heating levels are warmer), may also have increased risk of exposure. Concentrations will depend on location, structure and building use, floor construction and how that is sealed (or not). Concentrations may also vary greatly from season to season, from day to day and are often higher at night, increasing the risk to night workers; persons that work longer than the normal eight hour day or those carrying out remedial building work, who could find themselves working routinely in areas with high radon levels.
Radon produces a radioactive airborne dust. Higher concentrations and longer exposures increase risks, especially for smokers. Once inhaled dust emits radiation that damages the inside of the lungs. This damage is similar to that caused by smoking, increasing the risk of lung cancer. No evidence exists that radon causes other harm or cancers.
Workplaces in non radon affected areas that have no underground occupied areas usually require no further action. Workplaces in a radon affected areas, require measurements to assess radon exposure.Tests are conducted by placing detectors, within ground and occupied basements areas of the workplace (as many as One per 100 m2 may be required dependant on workplace size but always a minimum of two). These should be left in situ for three months, and then returned by post to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) for analysis; results are normally issued within four weeks. Results at or above the 400 Becquerel’s per cubic metre (Bq m3) would necessitate action.
Employers must inform staff if they are at risk and nominate staff to oversee protection measures. The HPA recommend a five-point action plan for employers to reduce exposure ALARP by:
(i) Measurement – Test for radon on the ground floor and occupied basements.
(ii) Surveillance – Continue monitoring until remedial action is complete.
(iii) Risk assessment – Setting priorities for action based on radon levels.
(iv) Mitigation – Complete remedial action within six months to ensure levels are below the Action Level. Possible solutions as outlined in the BRE Report ‘Radon in the Workplace’ FB41 are; sealing; positive pressurisation, sumps, underfloor ventilation and ventilation other than pressurisation.
(v) Maintenance – Conduct periodic testing and routine checks.
For further information along with Radon Maps of the UK please refer to the UK Radon Website.