NIOSH Issues Final Report from Health Hazard Evaluation To Assess Occupational Exposure to X-Rays from Baggage Screening Machines
Contact: Fred Blosser
October 1, 2008
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued the final report from a 2004 health hazard evaluation to assess occupational exposure to x-rays from baggage screening machines among baggage screening employees at 12 airports across the nation. This evaluation was conducted at the request of management and employees.
NIOSH found that nearly 90 percent of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) baggage screeners in the evaluation received no measurable occupational x-ray radiation exposure. Low doses of x-ray radiation within Occupational Safety and Health Administration permissible exposure limits were found for some baggage screeners. Factors that may have contributed to the low doses of x-ray radiation included improper maintenance of machines, equipment design limitations, and insufficient training and improper work practices. NIOSH made recommendations to address each of these issues and to conduct further monitoring of x-ray radiation exposures. TSA has already begun to implement many of these recommendations.
Working with TSA management and employee representatives, NIOSH selected the 12 airports for the evaluation to include both small and large facilities, and to include different models and layouts of baggage screening equipment. NIOSH observed the work practices and procedures followed by baggage screeners and took readings around screening machines to detect x-ray emissions. At six airports, NIOSH asked screeners to wear personal monitoring devices or dosimeters to measure x-ray exposures.
NIOSH recommended that the employer:
- Develop a formal radiation safety program to protect its workers from exposures to x-rays
- Provide baggage screeners with periodic training on safe work practices
- Improve equipment maintenance
- Enhance health and safety communication among all employees and management
- Conduct limited exposure monitoring for employees to further evaluate potential exposure to x-rays
NIOSH also recommenced that supervisors be notified about equipment malfunctions, that proper equipment be used to clear bag jams in screening machines, and that machines' safety features not be overriden.
The NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Program provides assistance to evaluate occupational health concerns at workplaces, particularly in regard to emerging or complex issues. NIOSH is authorized to conduct a health hazard evaluation at a workplace at the request of at least three current employees, an employee representative, or the employer. For more information about NIOSH, visit the website at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/. To learn more about the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation program and to view and download the full report (HETA #2003-0206-3067), go to http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/.
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