Increase in HSE Enforcement of Employers’ Duties Regarding Radon Risk Assessments

The Health & Safety Executive have increased their activity of carrying out workplace inspections relating to radon gas over the past 18 months. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, which contributes to over 1100 lung cancer related deaths each year in the UK alone.

These inspections have become particularly relevant throughout the education sector. HSE inspectors have written to almost 100 schools in Bath & North-East Somerset to request a copy of their radon risk assessment and test results. Many schools, that had not previously carried out radon testing, have had to undertake the required assessments, and in some cases, have found an elevated concentration of radon gas.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of employees and others who have access to their work environment. Employers are legally required to carry out risk assessments. This should identify all hazards that could be posed to staff, students, and visitors, and should therefore consider radon.

In certain situations, the risk assessment must include radon testing, specifically if the site is located within a designated radon ‘affected area’, or if the site contains a basement or below-groundwork area (that is occupied for 1-hour per week or more).

Several improvement notices have been issued to employers across the UK, in various sectors and industries, where the required radon testing has not been carried out, or mitigation systems have not been properly maintained. Those employers have been informed by HSE that they must complete the required testing or bring systems up to the required standard before the set deadline, or they may face further action.

For example, companies across the UK have been issued notices by HSE for failing to:

  • “Review the preventative and protective measures associated with the adequate control of risks associated with the presence of radon gas.”
  • “Make and give effect to appropriate arrangements for the effective organisation, control and review of preventative and protective measures required to ensure compliance with the Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017.”

The Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17) are relevant when a test finds radon level in any part of a workplace exceeding the action level of 300 Bq/m³ (Becquerels per cubic metre of air). If this level of radon is found, in accordance with IRR17, employers will be required to take advice from a Radiation Protection Advisor, who may advise that the employer must restrict access to certain parts of the building, display warning signs, or even close the building.

Where remediation is necessary, the cost will depend upon the size and design of the building, as well as the level of radon found. However, the required remediation work is often inexpensive.

Improvement notices issued by HSE are a matter of public record and can be found online. It is in the interest of all employers to ensure that they have completed the necessary risk assessments to avoid any potential negative press.

A number of UKRA members provide radon testing services, radiation protection advice, mitigation design and installation and risk assessment consultancy. They can assist employers to achieve compliance with this legislation. To search UKRA’s list of members please visit our page here. Please don’t hesitate to contact us here, if you seek further advice.