Radiation protection in schools

Most secondary schools use low-level radioactive sources as part of the national curriculum in science and/or advanced level physics.

The employer of these schools in many cases is Ealing Council and under the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 (made under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974), the employer is regarded as a radiation employer.

These regulations require that all radioactive substances are accounted for, stored properly, handled safely and monitored regularly.

This responsibility is delegated to individual schools with Ealing Council having overall responsibility (where the local authority is the employer).

Radiation protection in schools

Radiation protection roles
Standard school holding

Radiation protection roles

Radiation protection supervisor
The person in charge of radioactive sources within individual schools is known as a radiation protection supervisor (RPS). The RPS has the day-to-day responsibility for the security, safe storage, use and monitoring of radioactive sources in the school, and for ensuring that staff understand the standard operating procedures and model risk assessments.

It is recommended that this person should be a member of the science teaching staff, typically a subject leader or senior physics teacher.

It is not recommended that the RPS role is taken on by a technician because technicians do not usually hold an authoritative role or an overview and active involvement in all aspects of the use of radioactive sources (including classroom practices). A technician could, however, be appointed as an assistant RPS within the school.

It is strongly recommended that any RPS attends a course specifically designed for school-level work. CLEAPSS run such courses for schools.

Radiation protection adviser
A radiation protection adviser (RPA) is an expert in radiological protection and will have the relevant training, experience and certification.

All schools that hold radioactive sources are required by the Ionisation Radiation Regulations 1999 to have an appointed RPA so that they can get specialist advice and support. Ealing Council has appointed an RPA to meet this requirement.

Corporate health and safety must be contacted with any radiation protection queries and schools must not make direct contact with our RPA.

Contact Raj Chowdhury from Schools Health and Safety with all radiation protection queries.


Standard school holding

The table below lists the sources that a school could be expected to keep:

  • Up to 1.2 MBq (~30 μCi) as sealed sources (but see section 3.3.2). That is six 185 kBq (5 μCi) sources. The nominal activity1 of any source must not exceed 400 kBq (10 μCi). New sealed sources must meet ISO 2919:2012 C23312.
  • Uranium compounds in totally encapsulated disc sources2.
  • Protactinium generator for half-life experiments.3
  • Gas mantle radon-220 (thoron) generator for half-life experiments. 4
  • Caesium-137/barium-137 elution source for half-life experiments, each up to 40 kBq.5
  • Low-activity cloud chamber sources, eg thoriated tungsten welding electrodes (TIG electrodes).
  • Small specimens of naturally radioactive rocks.
  • Low-level radioactive consumer artefacts such as smoke alarms, gas mantles in a sealed bag, small items of Vaseline glass, and Fiestaware.

Source: Document L93 (CLEAPSS, November 2019) L93 Ionising Radiations and Radioactive Substances (cleapss.org.uk) page 11




Contact details

Raj Chowdhury
Schools health and safety adviser/schools radiation protection officer
Tel: 020 8825 7287
Mob: 07568 130 165
Email: chowdhuryr@ealing.gov.uk


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Last updated: 01 Aug 2023