Employers have a duty of care toward their employees, and there are three key pieces of legislation that relate to radon in the workplace and the need to carry out a risk assessment:
The enforcement of any health and safety legislation, including IRR17 is the responsibility of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). HSE also delegates the enforcement to Local Authority Environmental Health departments in various sectors.
Here we will run through your obligations in more detail, including when and how to test for radon and how high radon levels in a workplace can be reduced.
Radon is found in varying quantities in all buildings, in all parts of the country. Certain locations are at greater risk due to the underlying geology. Ignorance is no excuse, and a simple initial check can be carried out using the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) radon map to check to see if a property sits in an area where there is an increased probability of high levels of radon gas. The map gives an indication of the likelihood of finding high radon levels in an area, but cannot tell you whether your individual property is affected.
Workplaces vary greatly in both size and nature and our experience shows that high levels of radon gas can occur in virtually any type of workplace. The levels of radon in a building are dependent on several factors including: location, the type of structure, how the structure is used, ventilation systems and occupational factors.
A radon risk assessment should therefore be completed for all workplaces. The first step is to consult the radon map.
The workplace radon risk assessment must include radon testing in the following scenarios:
Above ground workplaces
If the building is located in a radon affected area as identified by the radon map.
Below ground workplaces
If the building has a basement or other partly-below ground area that is occupied for an average of 1 hour per week or more, regardless of location.
If the workplace has a basement where people spend over 1 hour a week you must test for radon wherever you are in the UK. If the workplace is above ground and within a designated ‘affected area’ it should also be tested for radon.
Due to radon gas being a naturally occurring phenomenon through the natural breakdown of radium contained within the earths rocks, one must not make assumptions. Two buildings side by side may have entirely different radon levels, therefore all premises must be tested on any site where radon is suspected.
Initial testing is carried out by using a radon testing kit (normally left in situ for a 3 month period), followed by analysis carried out by a UK Health Security Agency approved laboratory. As a specialist radon testing and mitigation company, PropertECO can advise you on the number of detectors you require for your workplace based upon the size, layout and occupation patterns. Detectors can be sent in the post however if preferred, PropertECO can also offer a ‘place and collect’ service for employers who would prefer a specialist to handle the whole testing process.
Your radon test results will be sent to you following the laboratory analysis. Radon levels are measured in a unit called Bequerels, expressed as Bq/m3 (Bequerels per cubic metre of air). The average indoor radon concentration in the UK is 20 Bq/m3.
The Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17) come into effect when the annual average radon level in a workplace is 300 Bq/m3 or higher.
All employers with annual average radon levels in excess of 300 Bq/m3 in their premises must Notify the Health & Safety Executive and plan to limit their employees’ exposure to the hazard. This is a legal requirement. A Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) must also be appointed to complete a detailed radiation risk assessment based upon the actual radon concentration and occupancy times.
Exposure can be limited by restricting access to the building, however this is rarely practical within an operational workplace. More commonly, radon mitigation works are undertaken to reduce the radon level within the building.
The techniques used for workplace radon mitigation are based upon altering the air pressure differential between the ground and the building. This can be done in one of two ways; the installation of a radon sump or a positive pressure ventilation system (or sometimes, both).
The principles behind these techniques are the same as applied in domestic settings, however larger capacity fans or more complex designs may be required in workplace buildings.
Repeat radon testing must be carried out after mitigation works have been completed to confirm whether radon concentrations have been successfully reduced. We will always include the cost of this within any quotations for radon mitigation.
propertECO also stock various digital radon monitors that provide continuous monitoring. Some models provide a reading on a screen, whereas others are App-based and readings are available remotely via desktop or mobile. These monitors are particularly useful for facilities managers who are responsible for a number of properties in different locations.
Once a radon mitigation system is installed, repeat radon testing should be carried out at least once every two years as well as regular maintenance inspections of the system to ensure it continues to function effectively.
Don’t forget: Radon induced lung cancers are responsible for over 1100 deaths per year in the UK. A 2012 study commissioned by HSE estimated more than 200 lung cancer cases annually are attributable to radon exposure received in the workplace.
When it comes to lowering the radon levels in your workplace, you can trust us. Our experienced radon gas specialists are on hand to help you. Simply call: 0800 046 6193