Employers convicted for failure to measure radon levels

Date released: Jun 15 2006

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has today welcomed the decision of the District court in Ennis to convict three employers for failing to comply with a RPII direction to measure radon in their workplace. Two of the defendants were fined €500 each. A third defendant, whom the judge noted had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, was fined €300. All three were ordered to pay legal costs of €600 each. A fourth case was dismissed by the judge.

Commenting on today’s events, Dr. Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII, said: “We hope that all employers, particularly in high radon areas such as Ennis, will take note of today’s decision and will recognise the need to measure radon to ensure their employees are not at unnecessary risk. 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. Therefore, we will not hesitate to prosecute employers who fail to measure their radon levels after being directed to do so by the RPII”.

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.

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.

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 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.

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) together with detailed information on radon and its risks. Information on how to get a home or workplace tested for radon is available on the 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).