Radon is a naturally occurring gas which is emitted from the ground and is odourless and colourless. Despite its invisible nature, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that radon gas is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK, after smoking.
As an employer, you have a duty of care towards your employees to ensure that the workplace is compliant with health and safety regulations as per the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017 ensure that where radon levels exceed 300Bq/m3, local authorities and HSE are afforded the powers to ensure that employers put measures in place to meet the required standard. To put this into context, the average indoor reading in the UK is 20Bq/m3.
As the presence of radon is invisible to the naked eye, it is important that you are aware of the level of radon within your practice. You should firstly identify what the level of radon is at your practice and follow up by putting appropriate measures in place.
Checking radon levels
You might be concerned about the cost of investigating radon and any follow-up which might be required. There are simple steps you can take initially to identify whether your practice sits within a low or high area of radon. Give your local authority a call or alternatively, you can do your own radon search on the Public Health England website for a small fee of £3.90. You will instantly be provided with a report that you can download.
The report will generally advise whether the practice sits in a low or high level of radon area, and whether basic radon protection or full radon protection is expected accordingly.
Once armed with this basic information, you can follow the appropriate steps to ensure that the levels of radon at your practice do not exceed 300Bq/m3.
Protecting your practice
Basic radon protective measures involve installing a damp-proof membrane on the ground floor to provide a radon-proof barrier. In addition to the requirements of basic protection, full radon protection will require provision for a subfloor depressurisation (a radon slump) or ventilation (a ventilation subfloor void).
To ensure that you have taken full precautionary measures, and especially if your practice is old and has no radon protection measures in place, it is best practice to get a test done. You will be able to order a testing kit online at ukradon.org.
Upon receipt of the testing kit, you will need to install the radon detectors as per the instructions and these will need to measure the radon level over a period of three months. You will then return the testing kit to the organisation and your results should be processed and returned to you within four weeks. Depending on the outcome of the test, you will be advised accordingly how best to ensure your practice is compliant and which measures, if any, you will need to put in place.
Radon will fluctuate over time, and it is therefore important that you monitor its presence accordingly. HSE advise that where radon levels are found to be significantly less than 300Bq/m3, you should re-measure once every 10 years. If your radon reading was just below 300Bq/m3, you will need to re-measure more often than every 10 years. Where your result was well above 300Bq/m3, you will need to re-measure frequently to check that the measures you have put in place are effective.
Do ensure that you are aware of the levels of radon which might affect your practice, that you put the appropriate measures in place and that you continue to monitor as necessary.
If you would like further advice on this issue, please contact Louise Crook on firstname.lastname@example.org