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Case Study: Commercial radon testing

FACT: ‘Radon is the single biggest source of radiation exposure to the UK population in both homes and workplaces, is present in all air indoors and outdoors, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco smoking.’ (UK National Radon Action Plan 2018)

Despite radon being such a common and serious issue to the UK’s workforce, as it is both colourless and odourless without proper detection you wouldn’t even know it was there until it is too late. Therefore, checking for radon  is arguably, one of the most important health and safety processes to have in place within a professional organisation. Alongside protecting your employees against the dangers of lung cancer, it is also a legal obligation for commercial property owners to carry out risk assessments and relevant actions under the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (HSE, 1999) and the Ironising Radiation Regulations 2017 (IRR17).

With this invaluable task to be achieved over a large portfolio of properties Oxfordshire County Council contacted PropertECO to utilise our unrivalled experience and knowledge of radon testing and mitigation in commercial situations.

View of Oxford

Risk Assessment

A full risk assessment, in line with IRR17, was required to ensure the safety of staff and tenants throughout their Oxford properties. A discussion was undertaken to explore the most effective options available and it was concluded that PropertECO would work closely alongside the Health and Safety team to carry out all the required radon risk assessments and radon detector placements. The first part of the process was for PropertECO to carry out risk assessments on each property provided from Oxfordshire County Councils portfolio in order to assess which properties were in a radon affected area based on the full property address. Once each property provided was assessed against the UK radon map, properties identified as been sited within radon affected areas where flagged. Our findings were then presented to Oxford County Council and a meeting was arranged to prepare for PropertECO to carry out radon detection in all the properties within affected areas.

Detectors Placement

Radon detector placement is a challenge for organisations as it is vital to ensure the correct number of detectors are placed and that they are in the optimum locations.  Based on the ease and reliability of PropertECO’s commercial detector placement service, arrangements were made for detectors to be placed in all the ‘at risk’ commercial properties in Oxfordshire County Councils portfolio by members of the PropertECO team. The properties were broken down into 3 section, with radon detector placements to be carried out over a period of 3 months, ensuring that access would be possible for collection in 3 months’ time. Employees occupying the properties were contacted to advise that access would be required, and radon detector placement began.

Detectors were carefully placed within the properties in the optimum positions and photographs were taken alongside a written record detailing location, reference number and date of placement. Employees occupying the properties were given information regarding the radon detectors although no action would be required. The detailed records relating to the radon detectors are vital, not only for ease of collection in three months’ time but also as location, placement date and collection date are required for accurate results once the tests are complete. When Detectors are placed by Staff members this can sometimes be overlooked which can lead to missing detectors or information and incomplete results, however having PropertECO place the detectors significantly reduces chances of any problems occurring.

Testing for radon gas inside a building

Next Steps

Once detectors have been in the properties, for a period of 3 months, they are collected, with dates of collection recorded, sealed in radon proof bags and sent to our independent Public Health England (PHE) approved laboratory for testing. When we receive the test results back the property database is updated with the verified results from all tested properties. The complete database is then colour coded and our recommendations for each property sent to the customer.  Any properties above the action level of 300 Becquerel will be highlighted and arrangements for a full design and mitigation survey with a PropertECO radon specialist will be discussed and a visit will be arranged for a convenient date. If the levels are below but near to the action level, they will require frequent testing to ensure that these levels do not increase, approximately every 2 years, and if they do, mitigation measures can be arranged. Any results that are safely below the action level will require a re-test after approximately 10 years, or earlier if any changes are made to the buildings construction.

Radon Re-testing

Radon retests are always required due to the unpredictable nature of radon gas, which is always present in the ground and air, caused by breakdown of uranium within the earth. Slight changes in the ground or property could cause a change in radon levels. We always ensure that properties are tested after we install mitigation works, to ensure that levels have been sufficiently reduced to a safe level for the property occupier.

PropertECO specialise in offering the full radon testing, mitigation design and installation. Our customers prefer us to manage the full service for them, however, we can advise and undertake any parts of the IRR17 requirements for you, offering a nationwide service. Contact PropertEco today to discuss your radon requirements on 01606 563042 or by emailing info@properteco.co.uk