Ionising Radiations Regulations

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The Ionising Radiations Regulations (IRR) are statutory instruments which form the main legal requirements for the use and control of ionising radiation in the United Kingdom. There have been several versions of the regulations, the current legislation was introduced in 2017 (IRR17), repealing the 1999 regulations and implementing the 2013/59/Euratom European Union directive.[1]

The main aim of the regulations as defined by the 1999 official code of practice was to "establish a framework for ensuring that exposure to ionising radiation arising from work activities, whether man made or natural radiation and from external radiation or internal radiation, is kept as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) and does not exceed dose limits specified for individuals".[2]

The 1999 regulations[edit]

The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999
Statutory Instrument
Citation1999 No. 3232
Introduced byLarry Whitty – Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Territorial extent United Kingdom, overseas[3]
Made3 December 1999
Commencement1 January 2000
Revoked1 January 2018
Other legislation
Repeals/revokesIonising Radiations Regulations 1985
Made underEuropean Communities Act 1972, Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
Amended by
Revoked byIonising Radiations Regulations 2017
Relates to
Status: Repealed
Text of statute as originally enacted


International policy relationships in radiological protection

The regulations came into force on 1 January 2000, replacing the 'Ionising Radiations Regulations 1985'. They effectively implement the majority of the European Basic Safety Standards Directive '96/29/Euratom' under the auspices of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.[2] This European Directive is in turn a reflection of the recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection.[4]

The regulations are aimed at employers and are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive(HSE). They form the legal basis for ionising radiation protection in the United Kingdom (UK), although work with ionising radiation is also controlled in the UK through other statutory instruments such as the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 and the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.[2]

The IRR99 make legal requirements including prior authorisation of the use of particle accelerators and x-ray machines, the appointment of radiation protection supervisors (RPS) and advisers (RPA), control and restriction of exposure to ionising radiation (including dose limits), and a requirement for local rules. Local rules including the designation of controlled areas, defined as places where "special procedures are needed to restrict significant exposure".

In 2013 the European Union adopted directive 2013/59/Euratom which requires updated Ionising Radiations Regulations to implement the directive in UK law by 2018.[5] Changes include reduced eye dose limits as a result of updated ICRP recommendations.[6][7]

Ionising and non-ionising radiation and associated health risks[edit]

The regulations impose duties on employers to protect employees and anyone else from radiation arising from work with radioactive substances and other forms of ionising radiation.[8] In the United Kingdom the Health and Safety Executive is one of a number of public bodies which regulates workplaces which could expose workers to radiation.[9]

Radiation itself is energy that travels either as electromagnetic waves, or as subatomic particles and can be categorised as either 'ionising' or 'non-ionising radiation'.[10]

Ionising radiation occurs naturally but can also be artificially created. Generally people can be exposed to radiation externally from radioactive material or internally by inhaling or ingesting radioactive substances.[11] Exposure to electromagnetic rays such as x-rays and gamma rays can, depending on the time exposed, cause sterility, genetic defects, premature ageing and death.[12]

Non-ionising radiation is the terms used to describe the part of the electromagnetic spectrum covering 'Optical radiation', such as ultraviolet light and 'electromagnetic fields' such as microwaves and radio frequencies.[13] Health risks caused by exposure to this type of radiation will often be as a result of too much exposure to ultraviolet light either from the sun or from sunbeds which could lead to skin cancer.[14]

Key areas of the regulations[edit]

The regulations are split into seven parts containing 41 regulations.[8] under the following sections.

  • Interpretation and General
  • General Principles and Procedures
  • Arrangements for The Management of Radiation Protection
  • Designated Areas
  • Classification and Monitoring of Persons
  • Arrangements for the Control of Radioactive Substances, Articles and Equipment
  • Duties of Employees and Miscellaneous

Dose limits[edit]

In addition to requiring that radiation employers ensure that doses are kept as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) the IRR99 also defines dose limits for certain classes of person. Dose limits do not apply to people undergoing a medical exposure or to those acting as "comforters and carers" to such.

Annual Dose Limits
Class of Person Annual Dose Limit millisieverts
Employees aged 18 or over 20
Trainees aged 16 to 18 6
Any other person 1

Changes in the 2017 regulations[edit]

The Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017
Statutory Instrument
Citation2017 No. 1075
Territorial extent United Kingdom, overseas[3]
Made27 November 2017
Laid before Parliament30 November 2017
Commencement1 January 2018
Other legislation
Repeals/revokesIonising Radiations Regulations 1999
Made underEuropean Communities Act 1972, Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
TransposesCouncil Directive 2013/59/Euratom
Amended byIonising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2017 (IRMER17)
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted

Key changes[edit]

The main changes in the 2017 regulations are summarised in the approved code of practice.[1] These include:

  • Reduced eye dose limit
  • "Graded approach" to authorisation
  • Broader definition of outside worker
  • Requirement for procedures to estimate dose to the public
  • Changes to guidance on cooperation of employees and timescale for medical appeals

The introduction of the Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2017 (IRMER17, the legislation that governs medical exposures in the UK) amended IRR17 to remove the regulation concerning medical equipment. These requirements are now under IRMER17.[1][15]

Dose limits[edit]

The dose limit to the lens of the eye has been reduced based on ICRP recommendation,[16] the new limits are now as follows

Class of Person Annual Dose Limit (millisieverts)
Effective dose Lens of the eye Extremities Skin (averaged over 1 cm2)
Employees and trainees aged 18 or over 20 20 500 500
Trainees aged 16 to 18 6 15 150 150
Any other person 1 15 50 50

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Work with ionising radiation Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 Approved Code of Practice and guidance (PDF) (2nd ed.). Health and Safety Executive. 2018. ISBN 978-0-7176-6662-1.
  2. ^ a b c Work with ionising radiation Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 Approved Code of Practice and guidance (PDF) (1st ed.). Health and Safety Executive. 2000. ISBN 978-0-7176-1746-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2010.
  3. ^ a b Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, s.84; reg.12
  4. ^ The Council of the European Union | Council directive 96/29/Euratom laying down the basic safety standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionising radiation Archived 2010-11-23 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Directive 2013/59/Euratom - protection against ionising radiation". European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  6. ^ "Revision of Radiation Protection directives including Basic Safety Standards (BSS) and Outside Workers directives". Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  7. ^ "Statement on Tissue Reactions". ICRP. 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  8. ^ a b | The Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999 - explanatory note
  9. ^ HSE | Radiation
  10. ^ Devereux, T. 'Health and safety for managers, supervisors and safety representatives', Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, 2008 p. 240 ISBN 978-1-904306-84-9
  11. ^ HSE | Ionising radiation
  12. ^ National Institute of Health | What are the adverse effects of Ionising radiation
  13. ^ HSE | Non Ionising radiation
  14. ^ Cancer help | Non Ionising radiation
  15. ^ "Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations 2017: guidance". GOV.UK. Department of Health and Social Care. 27 June 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  16. ^ Clement, C.H.; Stewart, F.A.; Akleyev, A.V.; Hauer-Jensen, M.; Hendry, J.H.; Kleiman, N.J.; MacVittie, T.J.; Aleman, B.M.; Edgar, A.B.; Mabuchi, K.; Muirhead, C.R.; Shore, R.E.; Wallace, W.H. (February 2012). "ICRP PUBLICATION 118: ICRP Statement on Tissue Reactions and Early and Late Effects of Radiation in Normal Tissues and Organs — Threshold Doses for Tissue Reactions in a Radiation Protection Context". Annals of the ICRP. 41 (1–2): 1–322. doi:10.1016/j.icrp.2012.02.001. PMID 22925378. S2CID 6410952.

External links[edit]