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Industrial radiographers - the unsung heroes of modern society

Posted on Oct 17, 2015 by Safe Radiation

Up coming training course: Radiation safety in Industrial Radiography [Brisbane, Feb 17-19 2016]
- For use of projectors (cameras) and X-ray devices in QLD, NSW, WA, NT

Structural safety in modern society owes a lot to industrial radiography and other non-destructive testing methodologies; yet unlike medical radiographers industrial radiographers generally remain unsung heroes...


Radiography is extensively used as a non-destructive technique for testing the integrity of industrial structures, their development, and maintenance. A non exhausted list of applications include: weldments of pipelines, blades and landing gears of aircraft, skin corrosion of ship hull and storage tanks, castings and forgings of machine components, conveyor belts in processing plants, foreign objects in food cans, and border security during goods transport. Industrial radiographers play an important role in assuring the safety of objects we access on a daily basis at workplaces, and for leisure. Structural safety in modern society owes a lot to industrial radiography and other non-destructive testing methodologies; yet unlike medical radiographers industrial radiographers generally remain unsung heroes. Industrial radiography is conducted with many types of devices that may incorporate X-ray tubes or gamma emitting radioisotopes as sealed sources. Linear accelerators and neutrons may also be used in special applications. Radiography may be conducted in purpose built enclosures where the material of interest is brought for inspection. However in most applications, portable radiography equipment is transported to measurement sites that are temporarily cordoned and sign posted. The radiation protection and safety details of industrial radiography and medical radiography are quite different.

Radiation safety in industrial radiography

Industrial radiography sources are strong thus have the potential to deliver large radiation dose over a short period of exposure time. The portable nature of the equipment adds to the need for extra care and awareness for radiation safety, emergency response initiation, and security of the radioactive material. Improper handling can result in serious radiation injury.

A dummy industrial radiography source

A 2TBq industrial radiography 192Ir gamma source (dummy shown in this photograph) can deliver radiation dose of 1.5 mSv in less than 5 seconds at half a metre distance. For comparison, average natural radiation dose to an individual living in Australia is about 1.5 mSv in an entire year!

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has published two useful books on radiation safety in industrial radiography (2011), and the lessons learnt from the industrial radiography accidents (1998). In June 2014, the IAEA organised a technical meeting with the purpose of assessing the root causes of industrial radiography accidents - to identify needs for further guidance, training, and awareness raising, and to develop potential solutions. A brief report on this meeting can be seen at the IAEA website. Link.

When compared to the international effort, the Australian code of practice about the safe use of industrial radiography equipment appears rather old (1989). It can be downloaded from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safeguard Agency (ARPANSA) website. PDF Link. Safe Radiation offers a 3 day training course on radiation safety in industrial radiography. The training course is based on the latest national, and international guidelines. Lectures and tutorials are supplemented by practical exercises including an emergency handling scenario.

At Safe Radiation, our aim is to reach as many industrial radiographers as possible. For this reason, our training course is offered at suitable venues, which may include your workplace. Contact us for more information, and course bookings.