The WRIT: IRR99, PPE and you
I’ve spent a bit of time in theatres recently and was appalled by how resistant everyone was to wearing their lead aprons and how badly the aprons were treated. I shall assume that this was because of ignorance rather than malice.
Let us for the moment ignore how wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) helps reduce your occupational exposure to radiation and thus the risk of your getting cancer.
“I don’t need to wear lead — I’ve had all my babies!”
“Have you had your cancer yet too?”
(This actually happened to a colleague of mine. The excuse is often heard by radiographers. We don’t care about fertility as much as we do about you getting cancer, which is horrible and expensive to the Health Service.)
Your employer had provided you with PPE (lead rubber aprons) and pays you to wear them and follow the Local Rules as enforced by us, the radiographers. How irritating; why does the hospital do this? Because it is law.
Under UK law, the Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999 to be precise, you must not knowingly expose yourself more than is reasonably necessary for your work and you must exercise reasonable care while carrying out that work.
This means that you need to try not to have your fingers in the X-ray along with the patient’s. Also, if you don’t need to be in theatre while we’re X-raying — don’t be.
If personal protective equipment is provided for you, you are legally obliged to make “full and proper use” of it.
This means that you must wear it AND do up the side straps. If you lean over and it all flaps away from you, or you’re sat down leaving your crotch exposed or you’re standing side on to the image intensifier that lead apron is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
You are also required to report any defects you discovers and make sure that the lead aprons are returned to their hangers after use.
This means that it is effectively illegal to just leave your lead apron screwed up on the counter or in a pile on the floor when you’re done with it.
Don’t get cancer — use PPE.