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by the NFCC

Control measure

Safe system of work: Non-ionising radiation

Control measure knowledge

Regulations are in place to protect workers from the risks to health from hazardous sources of non-ionising radiation which include:

The associated regulations for non-ionising radiation require employers to determine whether the exposure of employees to non-ionising radiation exceeds the exposure limit values (ELVs). In most cases this mainly affects people working in environments known to have sources of non-ionising radiation, such as the telecommunication and metal working industries. However, personnel may encounter such sources when attending incidents.

Assess the risk

Assessing the risk of exposure of personnel to sources of non-ionising radiation should be captured in an exposure assessment, which should include known and potential sources in their area and the associated control measures. For guidance on assessments and sources of non-ionising radiation refer to:

It may be beneficial to use joint on-site training to identify and understand sources of non-ionising radiation, their use and isolation procedures.

Adherence to signage and local restrictions Sources of non-ionising radiation will often have compliance limit distances (also known as exclusion zones) around the source where an area may exceed ELVs, such as a perimeter fence around a telecommunications base station.

Information regarding non-ionising radiation should be gathered from:

  • Risk information
  • Warning signs and notices
  • The responsible person

Most sites or structures that have non-ionising radiation hazards will have signage detailing the type of hazard, safe distances, emergency contact numbers and the site identification number, which will need to be relayed to the fire control room. Warning signs should be observed and confirmed by the responsible person.

The source of the non-ionising radiation should be avoided. If the source of the non-ionising radiation has not been isolated, it may be necessary to establish an exclusion zone. However, it may be possible to work safely near the source if all local restrictions are followed.

Isolate the source

The effects of non-ionising radiation depend on the:

  • Distance from the source
  • Time exposed
  • Power level

It may be necessary to isolate the source of non-ionising radiation so that responders can work safely. The information on the signage will normally need to be obtained to enable contact with the responsible person to request and confirm isolation of the source.

However, if there is no other choice but to be exposed to non-ionising radiation:

  • Maximise the working distance from the source
  • The minimum number of personnel should be deployed to the hazard area
  • The time exposed should be kept to a minimum

Impact on communications and equipment

If there are electromagnetic fields (EMFs) present, fire and rescue service communications and remotely operated equipment should be monitored for interference. Contingency arrangements should be put in place in case this occurs.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Consider using joint on-site training to gain familiarisation about sources of non-ionising radiation

  • Consider completing a non-ionising radiation exposure assessment for operational personnel

  • Inform personnel about the hazard of exposure to non-ionising radiation, especially if they have medical implants that may be affected

  • Ensure fire control and operational personnel are aware of the signage information at sites with non-ionising radiation hazards

Tactical actions

Fire control personnel should:
  • Contact the responsible person using the relayed signage information or details held for sites known to have sources of non-ionising radiation 

Incident commanders should:
  • Observe and adhere to any warnings and local restrictions when working near to sources of non-ionising radiation

  • Relay all signage information to the fire control room to request confirmation that sources of non-ionising radiation have been isolated

  • Establish and control appropriate cordons for sources of non-ionising radiation 

  • Ensure that all personnel are made aware of the presence of non-ionising radiation

  • Liaise with the responsible person for information about sources of non-ionising radiation and isolation procedures

  • Ensure personnel entering the hazard area do not have any medical implants that may be affected by sources of non-ionising radiation

  • Consider the impact of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) on fire and rescue service communications and remotely operated equipment

  • If sources of non-ionising radiation cannot be isolated, maximise the distance, and minimise the number of and duration that personnel are exposed