Do councils know how they are affected by radon?

Did you know that councils have a legal obligation, under the Health & Safety at Work Act and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, to provide a safe working environment for their employees and/or tenants, this may include testing properties for any harmful gases like radon?

Each year in the UK over 1100 people die from lung cancer, developed as a direct result of exposure to radon, a report from an independent Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation concluded, “The majority of these deaths are as a result of exposure at concentrations well below 200 Bq m-3.” This is why it’s incredibly important for councils to not only be aware of radon and what it is, but also to know how to protect both employees and tenants from this deadly gas.

What is radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can affect properties of all types, ages, locations and uses.

The colourless and odourless gas is formed when uranium in the soil and rocks beneath us decays. When it permeates the ground into open air, it is quickly diluted to low concentrations, however if it rises into a building, it can become trapped and build to dangerous concentrations.

So what’s the secret to protecting tenants and employees from radon? It’s simple, be proactive, not reactive.

Why should councils be aware of radon?

Alongside their legal duty to employees, councils also have a moral obligation to provide the safest environment for both tenants and employees.

Radon, councils and employees

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require employers to complete a radon risk assessment if their workplace is in a radon affected area, or if they have a basement in which employees work.

The Ionising Radiation Regulations require any employer to act if it is found that the radon levels in the building exceed 400 Becquerels. Therefore, if a building is in excess of 400 Becquerels, it is deemed to be radioactive, meaning the HSE’s Ionising Radiations Regulation comes into play.

Radon, councils and tenants

The Housing Health & Safety Rating System’s Section 8 refers to radiation and the risk of exposure to radon, both airborne and in the water supply.

More tenants are becoming aware of the risk of radon and the damage it could cause. Because of this, many tenants are now asking councils when they last conducted a radon test in a property and if they can see the results.

We would therefore recommend to councils to take note of the heightened awareness of radon and start taking action now.

How to protect tenants and employees from high levels of radon

As radon testing and radon mitigation specialists, we would advise that all councils carry out a risk assessment.

The steps taken during a radon risk assessment are:

  1. Checking the building’s postcode against the UK radon map, this will show the levels of radon in that area, however this is only a guide and remember, all buildings carry an element of risk.
    • If the property is in a risk area or has a basement, this is when councils should carry out testing with radon detectors, (something we can help with) a small device which will be in the building for 12 weeks
    • If the property isn’t in a risk area, this is the end of the process. Nevertheless, if you do still want to check the property for radon you can
  2. Testing sees radon detectors placed in a building for three months before being sent to a laboratory to determine the level of radiation they were exposed to. A written report detailing the results is also provided
    • If the tests show high levels of radon, action must be taken. As specialists, we can design the best system and implement it at the council’s request
    • If the tests show high levels of radon, no more action is required at this moment
  3. Once radon mitigation works have taken place, carry out another test to ensure the levels of radon have decreased to a satisfying level

Our work with Flintshire County Council

We are proud to say we’ve tried and tested the above numerous times and have helped many clients over the years to ensure their employees and tenants are safe.

We worked with Lucion Environmental and Flintshire County Council to protect several of the organisation’s schools from radon.

The council carried out tests in the buildings and brought us in to design a system that would reduce the levels of radon, where required.

We duly did this, as well as carrying out the mitigation work, before the council carried out retests and were thrilled to see that all the schools’ radon levels were below the action level!

What can councils do now?

Now is the time for action against radon. We can help you to assess if your buildings are at risk and work with you, to help protect your employees and tenants’ health.

If you want to find out more about radon or our services, please call 0333 323 7760 or tweet us at @BCSPreservation.