Radon Underground

Radon is a naturally occurring gaseous element formed mainly by the radioactive decay of uranium present in rocks. It is common among homes, workplaces caves and mines. As Radon decays it releases a radioactive alpha particle, which if inhaled (it can attach itself to dust or water droplets) can stay in the lungs long enough to cause damage. Radon is considered to be the second largest cause of lung cancer (after smoking) in the UK. Further information on Radon is available by clicking here. QMC have produced a training package which can be accessed by clicking here for award holders to better understand the radon hazard, the training package should satisfy the HSE requirement for those working underground to be suitably trained. 

Exposure to radon needs to be managed under the Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017, part of which is the requirement for caves and mines that are worked in to be tested for radon. 

The North Wales Mine Repots group have sampled various mines used by groups. Further to that the BCA, together with AHOEC and the MoD  commissioned some further sampling. The results of which be found by clicking here.

Radon in measured in units called becquerels per cubic meter (Bqm-3). 1 Bqm-3 essentially being the decay of one radioactive particles nucleus per second. The greater the concentration of radon the greater the risk to our health (although it’s worth highlighting there’s no safe level of exposure to radon). Where radon levels are recored above 300Bqm-3 annually then the IRRC17 regulations apply. Several mines and all the caves (sampled to date) have shown levels in excess of 300Bqm-3 and so unless the areas above 300Bqm-3 can be avoided (for example if the far end of Bwlch y Plwm is avoided) the regulations will apply. 

The following flowchart can be used to help guide providers if the regulations apply to them: 

There are several steps providers need to follow within the IRR17 regulations, part of which includes the need to appoint an appropriately qualified Radon Protection Adviser. BCA commissioned an RPA (and consulted with HSE) to produce a revised guidance document: Radon Underground.

As long as providers follow the guidance within Radon Underground providers do not need to consult an RPA independently. The guidance within Radon Underground is based on leaders not being exposed to more than 6mSv annually and so do not need to be termed as “classified workers”.

Another part of the regulations is that providers must notify HSE. This is a free and simple on-line process which can be done by the employer by following this link: https://services.hse.gov.uk/bssd/?c=1 When notifying HSE providers will need to provide the following information, the bullet points below may help guide you through the notification process:

  • Personal contact details (you’ll need to register an email address with the system)
  • About your company/school/centre etc.
  • Number of employees
  • Number of classified workers [Note this should be 0 if working within the remit of Radon Underground]
  • No to Do you transport radioactive substances
  • No to Do not use portable ionising radiation sources
  • Number of fixed sites (caves/mines) you use
  • Notify (not register or get consent) that you are “working in an atmosphere containing radon above an annual concentration of 300Bq m-3”

At this point you may have to click the down arrow button followed by “view” to complete the process.