Radiation Device Operators

Operator Qualifications

For convenience the types of operators have been divided into three broad categories. One characteristic many of them share is the feeling that, like the dog above, at times they are constantly on the run. Medical operators of devices that produce radiation use the equipment to deliberately expose people to radiation for medical diagnosis or treatment. Industrial radiographers use radiation devices in a variety of settings to expose non-human objects. The procedures could inadvertently result in exposure to the operators or general public, however. The third category includes operators who may expose animals to radiation, such as veterinarians and X-ray machines in zoos, and those who operate equipment that is not necessarily intended for ordinary radiography purposes (where permanent, storable images are created), but results in the emission of radiation incidental to their operation or temporary images. This last category would include workers at a Loran transmission site, operators of electron microscopes, or operators of machines that check baggage at airports, boat terminals, in customs applications and to check visitors or prisoners in prisons.

Medical operators of radiation producing devices are specifically described in the Alaska regulations in section 18 AAC 85.430. This section excludes dental applications. It briefly states that the registrant of medical or veterinary X-ray equipment SHALL (1) be responsible for assuring that all requirements regarding shielding, fluoroscopy and medical applications, veterinary medicine radiography and radiation therapy are followed. These are listed as sections 18 AAC 85.440, 85.450, 85.460, 85.480, and 85.490. Section 85.470 refers to dentistry and has been transferred to the Board of Dentistry. Then, in item (2) it states that the operator MUST BE ADEQUATELY INSTRUCTED IN SAFE OPERATING PROCEDURES, and COMPETENT IN SAFE USE OF THE EQUIPMENT. The third item in this section states that (3) the registrant MUST PROVIDE SAFETY RULES TO EACH INDIVIDUAL OPERATING X-RAY EQUIPMENT under his control, INCLUDING ANY RESTRICTIONS OF THE OPERATING TECHNIQUE. It also requires that the operator DEMONSTRATE(S) FAMILIARITY WITH THESE RULES.

The specific details as to what constitutes "adequate" instruction, or how one would evaluate "competency", or even who is qualified to perform either of those activities is less clear in the regulations at present. A clue to what is expected and would be considered appropriate can be derived from the Food and Drug Administration requirements for mammographers, the requirements for accreditation of a facility by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and the Health Care Finance Administration requirements as to who is qualified to perform a reimbursable procedure. The basic requirements to provide a minimum standard of health care requires an individual who has completed a two year accredited program in radiologic technology, or works directly with an individual with that level of training. Most states require these individuals to be licensed, Alaska does not. In states with licensure of operators there is often a second category of operator referred to by various names and generically described as a limited scope technician, or radiographers assistant. This individual has not completed the full training requirement, but has had specialized training of a narrow scope and would work in a limited practice type environment

During a compliance inspection a healthcare facility can be cited if it is unable to produce documentation that the operator of their x-ray equipment:

The industrial radiographer will often be an individual who has training in both X-ray devices and in the use of radioactive materials to produce images in an industrial setting. As a result this individual must meet Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements as well as specific state training requirements. These state requirements are described in 18 AAC 85.640 of the Alaska regulations. Refer to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for additional information as related to radioactive materials. The instruction of industrial radiographers must include at least the fundamentals of radiation safety, characteristics of gamma and X-radiation, units of ionizing radiation dose, hazards of excessive exposure to ionizing radiation, methods of controlling ionizing radiation dose (time, distance, shielding), ionizing radiation detection instrumentation, use of survey instruments including their operation, calibration, and limitations, survey techniques, use of personnel monitoring equipment, operation and control of the radiographic equipment used, requirements of state and federal regulations, and the registrant's written operating and emergency procedures.

The fundamental concern regarding operator qualifications is to have a mechanism for ensuring that radiation is used in a safe manner. The fact that radiation cannot be detected by any human senses, yet it can cause significant biological effects to operators, patients, unborn babies and the general public make it essential that the operator be knowledgeable and competent in the use of such equipment.

Other options -

Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Radiation injury/Biological effects
Industrial Radiographer Training Form
Radiology Images/illusions
FDA and technologist licensure in Alaska

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