Radon in the workplace

What is Radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the decay of uranium found in rocks and soil. As a gas, it can move freely through the soil, enabling it to escape into the atmosphere or seep into buildings. While radon is invisible, odourless and tasteless, it can be measured with a radon detector.

What are the risks of radon in the workplace?

Radon gas does not pose a health risk in outdoor air, where it is diluted. In an enclosed space such as a home or building, however, radon can accumulate to high levels that do pose a health risk. Naturally occurring radon is responsible for the majority of the public exposure.

Prolonged exposure to high levels of radon has been associated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer. It is estimated that about 16% of lung cancer deaths in Canada are related to radon exposure.

Radon concentrations fluctuate seasonally, but are usually higher in winter than in summer and higher at night than during the day. This is because the sealing of buildings (to conserve energy) reduces the intake of outdoor air and allows the build-up of radon.

How much exposure to radon is safe?

Remedial measures are required whenever the average annual radon concentration in a dwelling exceeds 200 Bq/m3 in the normal occupancy area. The higher the radon concentration, the sooner remedial measures should be taken. 

Read more about the exposure limits for radon here.

What are my employer’s duties when it comes to radon in the workplace?

Health and safety legislation exists to prevent accidents, injuries and illnesses. Federal workers are governed by Part II of the Canada Labour Code, which requires the government to ensure its workers are not exposed to high levels of radon.

Read more about employer duties under the Canada Labour Code here.

What are my duties when it comes to radon in the workplace?

Every worker must report to the employer any situation that he/she believes to be a contravention of Part II of the Canada Labour Code by the employer, another worker or any other person, as per section 126(1)(j).

Every worker is also required to report to the employer any thing or circumstance in a work place that is likely to be hazardous to the health or safety of the employee, that of other employees or anyone else granted access to the work place by the employer.

The employee’s right to complain is limited only by the need to have reasonable grounds for the belief. Evidence from a federal government agency that potentially high levels of radon are present in your community certainly meets this requirement.

 

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January 11, 2015
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