Protecting your patients and staff

Radiation is often a term that comes with many unsavoury and dramatic connotations. From recent 20th century history to popular modern fiction, there are many horror stories of the negative consequences of its misuse, mistreatment and mistakes.

At this point the public is more than aware of the dangers and risks associated with radiation and, as with many things, this perception of risk can sometimes present more of an obstacle than the risk itself. From Marie Curie’s celebrated research into uranium, which ultimately caused her death through systematic exposure, to the catastrophic effects of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters in 1986 and 2011, radiation can often be seen as a purely negative thing, to be avoided at all costs.

However, when used safely and under the correct controlled conditions, radiation can prove to be an effective and useful, if not an essential, tool for a clinician. As well as having many scientific, mechanical and practical uses in industrial environments, the use of radiation is what provides doctors and practitioners with the ability to explore inside the human body. There are many areas, in dentistry in particular, where without the use of ionising radiation, eg X-rays, we would not be anywhere near as advanced as we are today.

Adequate protection

So, how do you ensure that your practice, staff and patients are all adequately protected from the dangers of overexposure to X-rays? As with everything within the profession, the use of X-ray equipment is strictly regulated and must be used in line with the
complex legislation that surrounds it.

UK legislation, together with guidelines produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), clearly lays out what a practice is expected to do to safeguard against problems caused by radiation.

On the HSE website (www.hse.gov.uk/radiation) are clearly defined and explained rules that must be followed in order to restrict peoples' exposure to ionising radiation and to avoid prosecution. There is also a link to the regulatory requirements for medical exposure to ionising radiation handbook (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg223.pdf, 2001). It states that all practices should consult with a suitable radiation protection adviser (RPA) to ensure compliance with the Ionising Radiations Regulations (IRR99).

The IRR99 is tailored towards those who work with ionising radiation (eg X-rays) requiring all employers to establish and maintain a succinct and efficient management system that can be clearly demonstrated and evidenced when called upon. The IRR99 is the legal framework for the restriction of occupational radiation exposure and the Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations (IR(ME)R) is the equivalent for patient protection.

The two key principles under IRR99 and IR(ME)R are:

  • Medical exposure to ionised radiation should only be carried out if it is justified
  • Exposure to ionising radiation must be restricted so far that is reasonably practicable in line with the intended clinical purposes.

Radiation protection consultancy

The most effective and efficient way for your practice to comfortably and reliably comply with the regulations is by using a dedicated radiation protection consultancy (RPC). A company like this will have suitable specialist RPAs that thoroughly understand the dental industry and are fully up-to-date with all the current regulation and legislation.

They will be able to assist you in carrying out prior assessment of plans for new installations, formal risk assessments and local rules to name some of the areas of compliance needed. Furthermore, they will be able to help you ensure that all employees and practice staff members have adequate and appropriate training, instruction and information to enable them to safely carry out their radiation related tasks.

A competent RPC company will be able to supply, inspect, protect, train and advise your practice on every aspect of dental radiation, and will proactively work towards meeting current legislation and protection of employees and patients. 

DBG offers an RPC that provides all these things as well as the comfort and peace of mind that comes with dealing with an experienced and professional company that fully understands the intricacies and specifics of the dental profession. It has a reliable team of experts that includes RPAs and medical physics experts to make certain that the service you receive is of the highest standard and optimum professional quality.

There are many dangers and risks associated with the use of radiation, but when handled safely with the appropriate levels of care and understanding, it can provide some of the most efficacious and useful results. To ensure your practice is compliant with all the regulations and your staff and patients are protected, ensure your chosen RPC company is professional, reliable and passionate about ensuring you are able to demonstrate your commitment to the the safe and correct use of X-rays. 

Reference

www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg223.pdf. Retrieved 03/07/14.

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