The first step in providing radiation protection for the public, employees or those exposed via a specific, radioactive accident is to minimize exposure in terms of quantity of radiation and the length of time victims are exposed. In the case of nuclear fallout, this is easier said than done. However, if you work in a radioactive environment, or your job puts you in close, consistent proximity to radioactive materials, it’s up to your radiation safety officer to ensure the right types of radiation shielding are used.
There are a variety of different radiation shielding products on the market
There is a wide range of products design to shield and protect you from direct radiation exposure. These range from physical barriers and materials that contain radioactive materials or radiation in one specific space, to garments, blankets or physical shields that absorb radiation and prevent it from interacting with your cells and their precious DNA.
Ultimately, we recommend working directly with a company specializing in radiation shielding products so you are 100% confident you’re using the right materials for the job.
Three basic ways to shield yourself from radiation
Radiation comes in various forms; alpha radiation is very low-level radiation and has little to no effect on living tissue. Beta radiation is stronger, but is usually combatted via clothing or heavy, garment-like protection. This is important to wear since certain types of beta radiation will burn the skin if it comes in direct contact with it. Finally, the strongest forms of radiation – gamma and x-ray radiation – require the heaviest shielding of all. This type of shielding typically comes in the form of very thick products, like lead or lead-based composites – but are often designed and produced to be flexible, so they can be adapted to different work environments and project needs.
Once you’ve established the type(s) of radiation used, you can begin to create your radiation safety plan, including adequate shielding products.
Shielding for the operator or technician
One of the strongest lines of defenses against radiation exposure in manufacturing, technical or industrial applications is that of creating a barrier or container via radiation-proof materials. This can include the use of:
- Lead wood blankets with inner and outer covers. Lead wool blankets are a preferred source of protection because they are flexible and effective. Plus, they can be ordered in a range of sizes and thickness, customized to the application. Different shapes are also available upon request.
- Flexible tungsten, bismuth and/or iron shielding
- Wheeled racks
- Various supplies and accessories
For more portable or temporary scenarios, the Lancs QuickRack is an option, providing an inexpensive, lightweight, and alternative way to quickly hang shielding and protect workers from sources of ionizing radiation.
Containment and glove bags
Containment units and glove bags are a staple source of radiation containment in manufacturing and industrial workplaces. By enclosing a contaminated item – or small area – the risk of contamination considerably decreases the risk of contamination. Catch containments – also called containment bags or drip bags – are also available. Larger work areas are better protected via containment tents (see below), which can be designed to fit the size of the work area and its occupants.
Glove bags have a range of different designs – including options for single or multiple workers to be gloved, sleeved and shielded while working in the same, small containment area.
Work tents and containment areas with ventilation
For larger work spaces, radiation protection occurs via work tents or larger containment areas. Because people work inside them, they must have special ventilation systems that provide the tents with fresh air but without contaminating the outside environment.
These tents are highly customizable and range from single-chamber tents (the simplest) to chamber tents that span thousands of square feet. Tents can also be designed to client specifications – including highly-specific needs when it comes to features and project requirements.
In most cases, these units are made with Pacifitex 1800 in yellow or white, for durability and are also fire retardant to optimize worker safety. Doors and window designs are available. Containment tents and radiation protective work areas are designed to provide adequate light and ventilation, and can come with removable floors and roofs for decontamination and extended use.
From wet suits and one-piece suits, to acid suits, welding jackets, hoods and more – radiation protective clothing is often the best line of defense when it comes to protecting yourself or your employees from radiation exposure. Over the course of the last 50-years, innovations in fabrication have allowed the design of flexible, protective clothing that is easy to get on and off, but provides top-notch shielding from beta and other forms of radiation.
Contact a radiation shielding supplier to customize radiation protection
Ultimately, the best protection from radiation exposure occurs when employers maintain a rigorous safety culture and customize their shielding and protective clothing projects and supplies for the job.
Contact Lancs Industries to learn more about your options or to begin the design of customized protective gear that’s specific to the task at hand. We’ve helped to create a radiation-free world for more than 40 years.
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