More needs to be done to address radon in BC workplaces.
Radon is not only a problem in mines, but can effect schools, daycares, banks, educational facilities and other workplaces—indeed, almost anyone who works in a building can be exposed to radiation from radon. However, employers and workers too often fail to make the link to radon. WorkSafeBC underestimates the problem.
BC’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (OHSR) already protects workers from ionizing radiation (ss. 7.18 to 7.25). Conservative estimates are that exposure to air at 200 bq/m3 in a full time job for a year will give a little over 1 mSv effective dose— the current action level for radiation exposure that employers need to consider. In almost all workplaces, employers can ensure radon levels are below Canada’s Radon Guideline of 200 Bq/m3.
There are also “General Duties” to ensure workplaces are safe (OHSR, s. 2.2, and 4.1). Ontario has set an example and interprets the general duty clause in its legislation to mean employers should work to ensure radon levels below 200 Bq/m3.
We think all workplaces should be tested in geographical locations where ten percent or more of buildings are known to have high radon. Workers can demand testing using joint occupational health and safety committees. For workers who work from home, employers should help with testing the home for radon.
Addressing Radon in BC Workplaces offers a short summary of our findings. We have also written a longer report that sets out current knowledge of radon in BC workplaces, shows many workers are likely exposed to radiation above legal limits, and offers a detailed analysis of law and policy options, titled Radon in BC: Employers' Duties, Worker Strategies, and WorkSafeBC Policies
We think there is a lot more that WorkSafeBC can do improve knowledge of radon and to clarify policies. In our short summary, Radon: We Need New Policies from WorkSafeBC, we set out our recommendations, including requiring testing and mitigation of workplaces.
We also call on the Ministry of Labour to revise the OHSR to explicitly reference radon and incorporate Canada’s Radon Guideline.
This work was generously supported by the Real Estate Foundation of BC and the Law Foundation of BC.