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ICRP: Free the Annals!

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Submitted by Michael D. Seymour, CIH, US Department Of Labor-Occupational Safety and Health Administration
   Commenting on behalf of the organisation
Document Recommendations
 
International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)
2006 Recommendations for a System of Radiological Protection


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on ICRP’s 2006 draft “Recommendations on Radiological Protection.” In the United Sates, OSHA is the regulatory authority with jurisdiction to set and enforce standards for occupational exposures related to non-AEA radiation sources. This includes machine-produced X-rays, accelerator operations and non-AEA materials. OSHA has included an update of its ionizing radiation standards on the Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda.

The main tenet of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is that each employer “shall furnish … employees a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm…” This has been identified as the “General Duty Clause” or section 5(a)(1) of the Act. Section 6(b)(5) of the Act provides direction on the promulgation of standards. It identifies that any standard shall assure that to the “extent feasible” … “that no employee will suffer material impairment of health or functional capacity … even if regularly exposed to the hazard for a working life.”

Based on the requirements of the Act and the subsequent legal interpretations, OSHA must assess the risks associated with exposures and determine if those risks are significant. In the Benzene decision, the Supreme Court provided guidance to the Agency and noted that a risk is clearly significant if a worker faces a 1 in 1,000 chance of cancer resulting from a workplace exposure, even if they are exposed to the hazard for a working lifetime.

To the extent that the ICRP recommendations, including this set of draft recommendations, meet these requirements, OSHA will consider them during our regulatory process. In this context OSHA makes the following comments:

The Agency specifically supports the statement in paragraph (29), “Use of this so-called linear, non-threshold hypothesis or LNT, is considered by the Commission to be the best approach to managing risk from radiation exposure.” We agree with ICRP that it is important to be consistent with the BIER VII report in this regard. In addition, we strongly agree with the statement in paragraph (328), “Responders undertaking recovery and restoration operations should be protected according to normal occupational radiological protection standards and should not exceed internationally accepted occupational dose limits.”

In the recommendations, ICRP suggests that exposures to employees be balanced against the societal benefit. For OSHA, this approach is difficult to reconcile with the requirement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 that employees be furnished with a place of employment that is free of recognized hazards.

We also believe it is helpful when ICRP expresses its risk estimates in terms that OSHA can easily convert to lifetime risks for comparison to the Supreme Court’s guidance.

The Agency has concerns with the Commission’s recommendations in paragraph (213), that doses received during emergency operation should be treated separately from those incurred in planned situations and doses up to 1,000 mSv might be acceptable. OSHA believes that these employees must remain in compliance with established occupational exposure dose limits unless emergency conditions make exceeding these levels unavoidable. Prior to these rare emergency situations, emergency workers need to be properly trained and equipped to minimize their exposures.