How to Protect Yourself from Radiation Exposure

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires employers to take a variety of precautions to protect employees from harmful exposure to ionizing radiation in their workplaces. Hazardous exposure can cause serious illnesses such as cancers, or have genetic effects.

However, it is also your responsibility to protect yourself if you work with high-frequency electromagnetic radiation such as x-rays. You must be familiar with the ALARA Principle (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) to minimize your radiation exposure. In order to avoid any deleterious effects on your health, you need to implement the three radiation principles of Time, Distance, and Shielding.


Fundamental Principles of Radiation Safety

  1. Time: Limit or minimize the exposure time to reduce the dose received from the radiation source.
  2. Distance: As you move further away, the dose of radiation decreases dramatically.
  3. Shielding: Insert a barrier of lead, concrete, or water between you and the radiation source to reduce or eliminate the dose received.


1. Time

  • Remember that although the average person is only exposed to x-rays for occasional imaging, radiological workers may be exposed multiple times daily. Radiation is cumulative and effects may not be apparent until years later.
  • If you work with electromagnetic radiation for imaging, remember that the ideal dose is the least amount of radiation possible to produce an acceptable image.
  • Always work efficiently to minimize the amount of time you spend in the Radiation Controlled Area (RCA).
  • Know exactly what you need to do and how to do it before entering the RCA, to limit possible exposure to the absolute minimum.


2. Distance

  • The amount of radiation exposure is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between you and the source. Therefore, doubling the distance drops the radiation dose to a quarter.
  • This inverse square law means that even a few extra steps away reduces your exposure level by 70-80%.
  • Be aware that the patient is the source of secondary scatter radiation during the radiology procedure.
  • Leave the room or stand behind a protective barrier if you can while the imaging apparatus is active.
  • Also, be very careful not to get in the path of the beam when it is in operation.


3. Shielding

  • Know how to protect yourself from radiation exposure when working with radiography devices. You must have radiation shielding installed, and wear high-quality radiation protective apparel whenever you are in the RCA.
  • If you are accidently or inadvertently exposed, you should be protected by this shielding
  • The type of shielding depends on the type of radiation emitted. Substances that attenuate x-rays include heavy metals such as lead, certain metal alloys, and special leaded glass and acrylic plastics.
  • Barrier Technologies develops innovative shielding products, including Leaded Eyewear, Lead and Lead-free Aprons, Protective Gloves, Scatter Reducing Pads and Drapes, Patient CT Shields, Mobile Barriers, and X-ray Accessories.


Protect Yourself from Workplace Radiation Exposure

In healthcare settings, ionizing radiation is used by devices such as x-ray machines, CT scanners and fluoroscopes, and for treating tumors and cancers. In industrial settings, x-rays can be used for testing, quality assurance inspections, sterilizing, or detecting structural flaws.

None of these applications are inherently hazardous when personnel are protected and follow safety procedures diligently. This includes implementing the 4 steps to controlling ionizing radiation hazards and preventing exposure.


Hierarchy of Hazard Controls

In order to protect yourself and others from the dangers of ionizing radiation, a framework has been devised by OHSA to systematically control and reduce any occupational dangers. It is called the Hierarchy of Hazard Controls. This 4-step outline can be represented as a pyramid, with the most effective control being at the top and the least effective at the bottom.


Step #1: Elimination or Substitution:

Is the use of x-rays absolutely necessary for a particular task? Perhaps the procedure could be replaced with another that doesn’t require exposure to ionizing radiation. Medical professionals in the radiological field should always bear in mind the ideal to “first do no harm”. An example could be to substitute a mammogram with an ultrasound scan.


Step #2: Engineering Controls:

Can the structure of the work area be changed to reduce exposure by shielding or barriers? An example would be to place a mobile barrier between the patient and the radiology workers that is height adjustable and can be altered to suit a particular procedure. Barrier Technologies offers an innovative, fully customizable, portable lead shield, the Terminator XR™.


Step #3: Administrative Controls:

Are the RCA, radiology personnel and all equipment compliant with the provisions of any OSHA standards? Some examples of administrative controls include clear signage, warning systems, and written operating procedures to prevent, reduce, or eliminate radiation exposure. Furthermore, all employees must be well-versed in all normal operating procedures and emergency procedures.


Step #4: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

Are all personnel equipped with adequately shielded PPE? For example, a protective xray apron, thyroid shield, gloves, and leaded glasses will reduce x-ray doses to covered areas and protect the eyes. Consult our qualified experts at Barrier Technologies when developing a PPE policy and choosing PPE for your workplace. In addition, radiologic workers should be equipped with dosimeters and understand how to use and wear them.

how to protect yourself from radiation exposure


Worker Training

One of the most important ways of protecting yourself from radiation exposure is through training on safe work practices. It is critical to provide personnel with information on how to safely use all radiation-producing equipment or radiation sources in the workplace. This includes awareness of regulations that govern mandatory performance and safety standards.

State agencies regulate the operation of radiation equipment by requiring licensing or certification, quality assurance programs, and facility accreditation. These mandatory personnel qualifications are another important part of protecting workers from exposure to the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.



Barrier Technologies develops innovative products to protect you from the harmful effects of scatter radiation. Our company is deeply committed to the promotion of occupational safety and radiation protection by sharing information on effective safety guidelines, procedures, and standards.

It is our mission to educate people about the appropriate steps to be taken to protect themselves and ensure safety from ionizing radiation. Contact us today for expert advice and incomparable radiation protection.