Ionising Radiation Regulations 2019

New Regulations (S.I. No 30 of 2019) for the protection of workers and members of the public from the harmful effects of ionising radiation were signed into law on the 5th of February 2019. These new Regulations, which are referred to as the Ionising Radiation Regulations of 2019 (IRR19), replace S.I. No 125 of 2000.
The new Regulations introduce a number of important changes to the way in which we regulate the use of ionising radiation in Ireland. The key changes are summarised below.

Patient Protection

Responsibility for the public and staff protection will remain with the EPA.  However, responsibility for patient protection will switch to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) from the Medical Exposure Radiation Unit (MERU) in the HSE.

Graded Authorisation

The current system of licensing will be replaced with a system of graded authorisation comprising of both registration and licensing.  Registration will have a lower cost and administrative burden and will be appropriate to radiation practices, which have been shown to be of relatively low risk.  Licensing will continue to apply to high risk practices. A full list of the practices subject to registration and licensing can be found in the Graded Authorisation section.

Regulatory fees

A new fee structure will be introduced in tandem with graded authorisation.  The new fee structure has been designed so that the charges are proportionate to level of risk associated with the type of practices being carried out.  The new fees will include separate authorisation and enforcement elements.  Authorisation fees will apply when an application is made to carry out a new practice or to significantly modify an existing practice.  Enforcement fees will apply to licensed practices and will be charged annually.  Enforcement fees are intended to cover the costs associated with guidance, inspection and licence amendments.

Dose limit for the lens of the eye

The Directive introduces a reduced dose limit for occupational exposure to the lens of the eye.  The new limit on the equivalent dose for the lens of the eye is 20 mSv in a single year or 100 mSv in any five consecutive years subject to a maximum dose of 50 mSv in a single year.  The EPA will issue guidance in relation to acceptable measurement protocols for the measurement of eye dose.

Strengthened arrangements for outside workers

The new Directive changes the definition of an "outside worker" to mean “any exposed worker who is not employed by the undertaking responsible for the supervised and controlled areas, but performs activities in those areas, including apprentices and students”.  Currently only category A workers not employed by the undertaking are considered to be outside workers.  As a consequence of the transposition a greater number of exposed workers will fall within the definition of outside worker.

Changes to the Radiation Protection Officers (RPO) and Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) roles

The new Regulations will set out a more defined role for Radiation Protection Officers (RPO).  It is envisaged that the RPO will be an individual or unit reporting directly to the undertaking with operational responsibility for radiation protection.  In line with the Directive the new Regulations will replace the current requirement to appoint a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) with a requirement to consult with a RPA in specified situations. 

Disposal of Unsealed Sources

The new Regulation in line with the 2013 Directive will no longer permit the deliberate dilution of radioactive materials for the purpose of them being released from regulatory control.  The mixing of materials that takes place in normal operations where radioactivity is not a consideration is not subject to this prohibition.  The EPA may in certain circumstances authorise the mixing of radioactive and non-radioactive materials for the purposes of re-use or recycling.

Radon

The new Regulation will introduce more stringent protections for workers in workplaces with high indoor radon levels and in activities processing naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM).  In line with the 2013 Directive the national reference level for radon levels in workplaces will decrease from 400 Bq/m3 to 300 Bq/m3. Under the new regulations there will be a general duty on employers to carry out radon measurements in underground workplaces and in above ground workplaces identified as being liable to have high radon levels (based on the EPA’s radon risk map).

Emergency Preparedness

The new Regulations will introduce new requirements for undertakings responsible for certain types of practice covering emergency arrangements. The EPA will issue guidance to help undertakings to comply with these requirements.