Non-ionising radiation

Non-ionising radiation (NIR), which includes the ultraviolet, infrared and radio-frequency regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, falls within the scope of occupational hygiene. It’s included in the syllabi for the British and American professional qualifications and will normally be studied as part of University occupational hygiene programmes. However, in my experience, most practising occupational hygienists rarely have to address risks from NIR as part of their day-to-day job and so tend to have little practical experience.

In the UK, for hygienists working towards the BOHS Certificate by the modular route, NIR is included in the BOHS module M201 “Thermal environment and Non-ionising radiation (including lighting)”. This is one of the optional modules and so a significant proportion of Certificate candidates may not have studied the subject when they take their oral examination. Fortunately, as its not a “core” subject, it would be unusual for the oral examination to focus too deeply on NIR, but questions may be asked on the potential risks and how they can be controlled, even where the candidate hasn’t taken M201.

We allocate some time to NIR during our Certificate oral exam preparation course, and find that for many of the course participants its one of their weaker topics. Consequently this part of the course tends to require teaching rather than revision. We concentrate on the hazards presented by the different types of NIR and the principles of control. I’ve uploaded a presentation we sometime use on these aspects to Slideshare. I’ve embedded it below, but you can view it on the Slideshare site here if you prefer.

The measurement of the different types of NIR is quite complex, as are the respective exposure standards. Given that NIR is a non-core subject, it is not that likely that any detailed questions on these aspects would be asked during the oral exam (it would be rather unfair if they were). However, they are likely to be included on the written exams for both M201 and the Certificate Core examination.


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