The most common use of radiation gauges is on the production line to detect the presence or absence of particular materials. For example, they are used in the steel industry to detect the presence of steel on the production line since other types of detectors do not function in such extreme conditions. Incidents usually occur during shutdown when maintenance workers either conduct maintenance on the source or on equipment close to the source. Other incidents occur when gauges are old, and the shielding and housing of the gauge becomes compromised allowing radiation to leak.
The human causes of these incidents include:
- Workers unaware: workers performing scheduled maintenance on other parts of the production line may be unaware that the gauges emit radiation, and as a result may come into close contact with the sources and receive radiation doses.
- Operator error: workers undertaking maintenance of the gauge do not adequately safeguard other workers.
Technological cause of these incidents include:
- Radiation leakage: the harsh environment in which gauges are used (e.g. intense heat, vibration) means that the housing and shielding of the gauges can be compromised resulting in radiation leakage.
- Shutter malfunction: the shutters and shutter indicators can malfunction, showing as ‘closed’ when in fact they are ‘open’.
Organisational causes of these incidents include:
- Wipe-testing: organisations fail to put systems and processes in place to ensure gauges are wipe-tested for radiation leakage.
- Training of workers: organisations fail to provide adequate training for staff on the risks of radiation gauges, how they work and how to perform maintenance safely to protect themselves and other workers.
- Oversight of operations: organisations do not provide sufficient oversight of workers undertaking scheduled maintenance work of the radiation gauges.
- Not placing adequate signage: organisations do put adequate signage around radiation gauges resulting in staff not being aware of their locations and hazards.