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Ionizing radiation sources may be found in a wide range of occupational settings, including medical and dental practices. These radiation sources can pose a considerable health risk to staff members if proper precautions are not taken.

When it comes to x-ray and other equipment that emits radiation, OSHA requires medical and dental practices to provide yearly training to staff members to make them aware of radiation risks. Practices must also equip employees with tools to protect themselves from exposure that is above levels to be considered safe. This training is required whether a staff member actually takes x-rays or is simply in an office that uses radiation.

OSHA also requires practices to take the following precautions:
Display a sign with the universal symbol for radiation on the door of the radiation area and on the x-ray machine itself. This lets everyone know, including patients, that there is potential for radiation exposure to individuals in that particular area.
Provide lead-lined personal protection equipment (apron, thyroid shield, gloves, etc.) for staff and patients to use as required by the particular situation. For example, a lead-lined shield must be provided for technicians so they can avoid any close contact with the scatter radiation from the machine while it is activated.

Properly store personal protective equipment so it is laying flat or hanging it when not in use. It should never be folded as it will become damaged and will no longer offer protection.

In some settings, employees should wear a radiation badge, also called a dosimeter. Whether it is a finger badge and/or one that clips to a uniform depends upon the type of x-rays the individual is performing. The clip-on badge is used to measure the amount of radiation in that specific location; it can be worn near the collar, near the chest, or close to the waist. If there is beta or gamma radiation exposure, a ring should be worn because the radiation is used closer to the hand. Dosimeters should be processed quarterly unless the staff member is pregnant, in which case the device is processed monthly. Some types of radiation may not require monitoring.

Not taking the above precautions can result in OSHA penalties, but it also puts staff members at risk of radiation exposure, which can lead to erythema, dermatitis, and in severe cases, skin cancer.

Individual states work in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration. They have a program available to help monitor the amount of radiation emitted from a machine. Click here for more information.

Have questions about OSHA safety and compliance? Contact our OSHA experts via email or call 800-635-4040.

Check out our OSHA “Dream” training video on youtube. This engaging and effective training video meets the requirements for OSHA employee training for medical and dental practices!

If you have questions about this topic or any other issues around the business of medicine, contact us via email or call us at 800-635-4040.

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