Radiation Health and Safety Regulations and What It Means to You and Your Veterinary Clinic

Within the last decade Veterinary Medicine has come leaps and bounds with diagnostic imagery. Most Veterinary clinics now have their own x-ray machine, table top and/or a portable machine and intraoral radiography as well. It has been upgraded from film dip tanks, CR to digital all within the last 10 to 15 years. The ultrasound machine is also becoming a common diagnostic tool with not only specialty hospitals but general practices as well.

Every vet clinic needs to assign a radiation safety officer. Typically this is either a medical director or a veterinary technologist. The hospital radiation officer is responsible for ensuring the operation of any of this equipment is performed by trained and knowledgeable staff. The office should also ensure the hospital is equipped with all the proper equipment as well. Quality control tests need to be performed annually and a record of this kept.

The quality control tests include ensuring the safety equipment is in working condition. By performing x-rays on all the gowns, thyroid collars, glasses and gloves, this ensures there are no tears or breaks in the protective lead. It also includes calibration of the collimator. Using paper clips to align the cross hairs on the collimation light in comparison to the placement on the produced x-ray view. You can also order a lead calibration ball and x-ray it to be sure it makes clear accurate images. If there is any blur to the images or malalignment the last person to calibrate the equipment must be notified. At this point they may need to perform another calibration.

The hospital radiation safety officer must ensure standard operating procedures are included in a manual readily available for anyone using the equipment. This person is also usually in charge of submitting the dosimeter readings promptly and accurately to the National Dosimeter Services on a quarterly basis.

The hospital also needs to ensure that proper signage is placed before any entrance to the room where the equipment is used and the potential be exposed exists. The signage needs to include the radiation symbol with the black circle and 3 black fans.         

When purchasing new x-ray equipment, moving existing equipment or needing a calibration, this has to be handled by someone who has successfully completed the Canadian General Standards Board CNSC Exposure Device Operators Exam or completed the equivalent CGSB Level 1 Certification Exam in Industrial Radiography or an apprentice being supervised by someone who has completed either of those. Once your equipment has passed certification it will need safety and preventative maintenance inspections every 5 years. The safety and preventative maintenance inspection needs to be done by a radiation health and safety inspector assigned by the government of Saskatchewan.   If your equipment is over 20 years old or there is greater than 10,000 x-rays performed in a year the inspections will need to be increased to annually. The hospitals radiation safety officer is responsible for notifying any damage or accidental radiation exposure within 10 days of incident.

Failure to comply with an order, direction or to cooperate with a Saskatchewan government radiation health officer, a clinic has the potential to be liable to fines. The amount of fines defined in the Saskatchewan Employment Act can be up to $100,000 or a continuing offense not more than $15,000 per day until the offence is corrected.

Therefore, it is important to have these things in place for your veterinary clinic prior to an SVMA inspection, as well as making sure your paper work and quality control logs are in order for your five year inspection by the Saskatchewan Radiation Health and Safety Officer. There is a great website that can help with radiation safety and awareness at www.radiationsafety.ca. To contact a Radiation Health and Safety Officer near you go to www.saskatchewan.ca and enter radiation safety. I hope this helps to keep you and all your fellow employees safe and up to date with the radiation legislation.

Submitted by Tara Holland, RVT and Member-at-Large, SAVT Board of Director

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