Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Ionizing Radiation

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Highlights

  • Hospital eTool. Focuses on hazards and controls found in the hospital setting, including those related to ionizing radiation, and describes regulatory requirements and recommended safe work practices for healthcare workers.
  • Test Your Knowledge. Quiz questions on radiation exposure, protection, and the OSHA Ionizing Radiation standards.

Overview

While everyone is exposed to natural background radiation, workers may also be exposed to ionizing radiation in workplaces with radiation sources. These radiation sources can pose a health risk to workers if not properly controlled.

Occupational settings with ionizing radiation sources include:

  • Medical and dental offices (e.g., X-rays).
  • Hospitals and outpatient treatment centers, including specialty departments in:
    • Radiology (e.g., medical X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans).
    • Nuclear medicine.
    • Radiation oncology.
    • Interventional fluoroscopy or radiology.
    • Cardiac angiography.
  • Nuclear power plants (reactors) and their support facilities.
  • Nuclear weapons production facilities.
  • Industrial operations (e.g., radiography equipment for testing materials or products).
  • Research laboratories (universities, colleges, and other scientific institutions).
  • Veterinary facilities.
  • Manufacturing settings and construction.
  • Security operations.
  • Air and space travel and transport (i.e., in-flight) operations, especially at high altitude.
  • Workplaces with high levels of naturally-occurring radioactive materials (NORM), such as radon.
  • Worksites with high levels of technologically enhanced naturally-occurring radioactive material (TENORM), such as uranium and other radioactive elements encountered during hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”) as part of oil and gas well development.

This Ionizing Radiation Safety and Health Topics page provides a starting point for technical and regulatory information regarding the recognition, evaluation, and control of occupational health hazards associated with ionizing radiation.

The radiation protection guidance discussed here should be implemented within a framework of existing OSHA standards, including, as applicable, those for ionizing radiation and personal protective equipment (PPE). This webpage discusses such standards generally and collectively. For example, mentions of "OSHA's Ionizing Radiation standards" refer to standards that protect workers from ionizing radiation in general industry, construction, shipyard employment, marine terminals, and longshoring. Readers should familiarize themselves with this webpage's detailed discussions of OSHA standards, including how they apply to each sector in which OSHA maintains authority for worker safety and health.

Readers should also note that OSHA's Ionizing Radiation standards have not been substantially revised from the provisions in the original 1971 version of 29 CFR 1910.1096 (which 29 CFR 1926.53, the Ionizing Radiation standard for construction, incorporates by reference). The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission—other agencies that regulate public and occupational ionizing radiation exposure—have updated standards based on more recent radiation protection guidance, such as that of the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

For technical and regulatory information regarding the recognition, evaluation and control of occupational health hazards associated with non-ionizing radiation, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page for non-ionizing radiation.

This page focuses on ionizing radiation hazards workers may encounter routinely. Emergency response workers involved in a radiological emergency may receive radiation doses under significantly different circumstances than what other workers receive on a day-to-day basis. Visit OSHA’s Radiation Emergency Preparedness and Response page for information on protecting workers during radiological emergencies.

About the Ionizing Radiation Safety & Health Topics Page

The Ionizing Radiation Safety and Health Topics page is organized into the following sections:

Background

Defines ionizing radiation and provides examples of workplaces in which employees may encounter sources of ionizing radiation.

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Standards

Ionizing radiation is addressed in specific OSHA standards for general industry, maritime, and construction. This page also discusses how OSHA’s Ionizing Radiation standard for general industry applies in shipyard employment, marine terminals, and longshoring.

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Health Effects

Provides information related to the health effects associated with ionizing radiation.

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Hazards Recognition

Provides information to help employers and workers recognize safety and health risks associated with ionizing radiation.

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Control and Prevention

Provides general information on controlling and preventing ionizing radiation hazards.

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Additional Resources

Provides links and references to additional resources related to ionizing radiation.

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Highlights

  • Hospital eTool. Focuses on hazards and controls found in the hospital setting, including those related to ionizing radiation, and describes regulatory requirements and recommended safe work practices for healthcare workers.
  • Test Your Knowledge. Quiz questions on radiation exposure, protection, and the OSHA Ionizing Radiation standards.
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