Thursday, October 22, 2009

Radiation exposure among hazards addressed in OSHA bulletin on particle accelerators

WASHINGTON - The increasing use of special purpose particle accelerators has prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) identifying the risks and providing information on the safe operation of these devices.

Special purpose particle accelerators use electrostatic or electromagnetic fields to increase the speed of electrically charged particles and direct the particles to collide with each other or other targets. In the medical field, accelerator-produced particle beams or X-rays are directed at cancerous tumors that are not reachable by other methods. Although accelerators can target life-threatening growths within the body, these devices can also potentially expose serious risks to operators.

"Based on safety and health inspections and audits that OSHA conducted, workers are potentially exposed to harmful radiation, electrical hazards from high-voltage cable systems, oxygen-deficient atmospheres and confined spaces," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. "Workers will suffer fewer injuries and illnesses if employers follow the safety measures specified in this bulletin and in OSHA standards."

The SHIB identifies specific safety and health risks and describes OSHA standards and regulations to protect workers. OSHA standards include requirements that employers apply lockout/tagout procedures to prevent unexpected startup of machinery, have a fire protection safety program and provide workers with personal protective equipment.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education.

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