RPII prosecutions in support of its radon in the workplace campaign

Date released: Dec 14 2005

Five prosecutions by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) were today adjourned to 3rd May 2006 for hearing before Tralee District Court. The prosecutions relate to directions issued by the RPII in 2004 requiring employers to measure radon in their workplace. In three of the Tralee cases the Defendant has indicated that it is pleading guilty to the offence alleged. In the remaining two cases the Defendant has pleaded not guilty.

Commenting on today’s events, Dr. Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII, said: “The cases currently before the court are important as they are the first in Ireland in which an employer has faced prosecution for an alleged failure to comply with a direction to monitor radon levels in their workplace. Under legislation enacted in 2000 the RPII can direct employers to carry out radon measurements in the workplace. The Institute is anxious to ensure that employers in high radon areas will recognise the need to measure radon to ensure that employees do not face unnecessary danger. Further comment on the prosecutions in support of the RPII’s Radon in the Workplace Campaign will be reserved until the pending prosecutions have been disposed of by the Court.

“Long term exposure to radon increases the risk of lung cancer and we estimate that up to 200 people die from lung cancer as a result of radon in Ireland every year. For people who smoke, or who have smoked, the risk from radon can be up to 25 times greater than for people who never smoked”, concluded Dr. McGarry.

The Radiological Protection Act 1991, (Ionising Radiation) Order, 2000. S.I. No. 125 of 2000 empowers the RPII to direct employers to carry out radon measurements in their workplace. Once directed an employer has six months to comply and complete the measurement and inform the RPII of the result.

Detailed information on radon and its risks, including information on how to get a home or workplace tested for radon is available on the RPII’s website or can be obtained on freefone 1800 300 600 or by texting the word RADON followed by your name and address to 53377. (Texts cost maximum 15 cents).

ENDS

Notes to Editors:
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be measured using specialised equipment. It is formed in the ground by the radioactive decay of uranium, which is present in variable quantities in all rocks and soils. Being a gas, radon has the ability to move through the soil and enter buildings through small cracks, holes or imperfections that may exist in the floor area.

Once in a building radon quickly decays to produce radioactive particles which are suspended in the air. When inhaled these particles can be deposited in the airways and attach themselves to lung tissue. This gives rise to a radiation dose, which may cause lung cancer.

High Radon Areas are shown on maps published on the RPII website. A High Radon Area is an area where more than 10% of the dwellings are predicted to have annual average radon concentrations above the national reference level. Approximately 33% of the country is classified as a High Radon Area. These areas are most prevalent in the South-East and the West.

The RPII advises all employers, particularly those in High Radon Areas, to have their workplaces tested for radon. This can be done simply and inexpensively using radon detectors. The detectors are the size of an air freshener and can be sent and returned by post for analysis. A list of approved measurement services is available on the RPII website (www.rpii.ie).

Since May 2000, exposure to natural radiation sources in the workplace has been governed by the "Radiological Protection Act, 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Order, 2000" (Statutory Instrument 125 of 2000). The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is the designated competent national authority for the purpose of the Order.

The Order sets a national Reference Level for radon gas in workplaces of 400 Bq/m3 averaged over any three-month period. In accordance with the Order, an employer or self-employed person responsible for a workplace is required to measure radon levels in the workplace on being directed to do so by the RPII.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, requires employers to identify hazards in the workplace, assess the risk to health and safety from these hazards and put in place measures to eliminate or reduce the risk. In order to assess the risk from radon, the Health and Safety Authority has stated that all indoor workplaces in High Radon Areas must have radon measurements carried out.