Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017

Caroline Raine outlines the new requirements introduced in the Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017.


On 1 January 2018, the Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017 (IRR2017) replaced the Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999 (IRR99). The new regulations are based on the EU Basic Safety Standards Directive 2013/59/Euratom and are required to be implemented in the UK by February 2018.

The main changes to the legislation include the requirement to notify the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for the work that is done with ionising radiation and a reduced limit for eye dose.

The Basic Safety Standards Directive

The 2013 Basic Safety Standards Directive (BSSD) brings the following five directives and an EU commission recommendation into one directive.

  • Basic Safety Standards Directive 96/29/Euratom.

  • Medical Exposures Directive 97/43/Euratom.

  • Outside Workers Directive 90/641/Euratom.

  • Control of high-activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources 2003/122/Euratom.

  • Public Information Directive 89/618/Euratom.

  • Radon Commission Recommendation 90/143/Euratom.

The 2013 directive (BSSD) lays down requirements for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation.

The aims of the directive are to make sure:

  • minimum standards for protection against ionising radiation are introduced across all Member States

  • dutyholders minimise so far as is reasonably practicable, the risks from ionising radiation to which workers, the public and others may be exposed

  • risks from ionising radiation are controlled.

Within the UK, the requirements of the BSSD are covered in the Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017.

Notifying the HSE

The new regulations introduce a requirement to notify, register or get consent from the HSE for any work that is done with ionising radiation. The type of work will dictate whether the work needs to be notified, registered or if consent will need to be given, it is dependent on the level of risk in the work that is done. Three distinct tiers have been introduced and notification is required for the lowest risk categories, registration for the medium risk categories and consent from the HSE must be given for the highest risk categories.

Examples of where notifications are required:

  • work with under 1000kg of artificial or naturally occurring radionuclides that is: between the low and medium end of specific concentration levels, above specific quantity levels

  • work in a radon atmosphere above an annual average of 300Bq m-3.

Examples of where registrations are required:

  • radiation generators, such as X-ray devices, that are not a specific practice requiring consent

  • 1000kg or over of artificial or naturally occurring radionuclides that is above the low end of specific concentration levels

  • under 1000kg of artificial or naturally occurring radionuclides that is above the medium end of specific concentration levels.

Consent will be needed for a specific list of working practices including:

  • deliberate administration of radioactive substances for specific medical or veterinary purposes

  • uranium mining

  • deliberate addition of radioactive substances into products

  • operation of an accelerator (except an electron microscope)

  • industrial irradiation

  • industrial radiography

  • work with a high activity sealed source

  • long-term storage or disposal of radioactive waste

  • discharge of significant amounts of radioactive effluent.

Notification is not required for:

  • artificial or naturally occurring radionuclides that are:

    • at the very low end of specific concentration levels

    • below specific quantity levels.

  • sealed sources that are type approved by the HSE and below low dose rates

  • electrical apparatus that is type approved by the HSE and below low dose rates

  • any cathode ray tube or other device operating at a voltage at 30kV or below, and below low dose rates

  • contaminated material that the appropriate environment agency has declared not to be subject to further control.

The HSE will need to be notified the work registered or consent sought prior to new work commencing and if the HSE has previously been notified, a new application will need to have been submitted by 5 February 2018. A fee of £25 is applicable for registrations and £25 for each consent (more than one may be required); there is no fee associated with notifications. More information on how to apply and if your work falls into scope can be found on the HSE website.

To help employers understand how the graded approach applies to their business, the HSE has prepared guidance: Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 — Guidance for Notifications, Registrations and Consents. It advises employers on how to comply with the “graded approach” that is effectively regulations 5, 6 and 7 of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017.

Eye dose limit

As well as the need to notify, register or gain consent, the other big change is that the occupational dose limit for the lens of the eye has been reduced in IRR2017. The dose limit for exposure to the lens of the eye has been reduced from 150mSv to 20mSv in a year. This is to be averaged over 5 years with no single year exceeding 50 mSv. Anyone who may exceed this dose limit will need to be classified.

Other changes

In addition to the introduction of the three-tier system of notification, registration and consent and the lowering of the dose limit to the lens of the eye, the new regulations introduce other changes that are summarised below.

  • Flexibility for five-year averaging for dose limit to lens of the eye, subject to conditions specified by the HSE.

  • Change to the radon reference level. The notification and intervention level for radon will change from 400Bq/m³ averaged over 24 hours, to 300Bq/m³ averaged over one year.

  • Change to the requirement for notification, which for some radionuclides is at a lower threshold than in IRR99.

  • The definition of “outside worker” has changed and introduces specific requirements (training, radiation monitoring) for all employees who enter and work in another employers’ radiation controlled areas and who are likely to exceed public dose limits. Previously these only applied to classified workers.

  • Introduction of new weighting factors for dosimetry.

  • Change to the dose record retention period from 50 years to not less than 30 years after the last day of work.

  • A requirement to put procedures in place to estimate doses to members of the public; a change to remove the requirement for a registered medical practitioner to be appointed “in writing” for the purposes of these Regulations.

  • Introducing a requirement for authorisation of the annual whole-body dose limit in special cases: the HSE or the ONR may authorise the application of an effective dose limit of 100mSv over five years (with no more than 50mSv in a single year) rather than dutyholders only giving prior notification.

  • Recording and analysis of significant events, ie radiation accidents.

  • Removing the subsidiary dose limit for the abdomen of a woman of reproductive capacity.

  • Removing references to “radiation employers”, a term that has previously caused confusion, and replacing it with employers.

  • The enactment of section 1 of the Deregulation Act 2015, which amended section 3(2) of the Health and. Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA), and the Deregulation Act 2015 (Health and Safety at Work) (General Duties of Self-Employed Persons) (Consequential Amendments) Order 2015, which amended these Regulations.

  • Changes that are required to accommodate other legislative, standard or guidance changes.

Additional information

The HSE has produced a draft Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) which gives advice and direction on how to meet the requirements in the regulations.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has published a new guidance document: An Overview of the Responsibilities of Parties Involved in Responding to a Transport Radiological Emergency, which can be found on the ONR website. The document outlines the responsibilities of various parties when responding to a transport radiological emergency during the civil carriage of dangerous goods of Class 7 (Radioactive Material) by road or rail in Great Britain.

The ONR has also produced a number of questions and answers which are available on their website.