Radon is a radioactive gas that is formed when uranium breaks down naturally. It has no colour, odour or taste. Radon is slowly released from the ground, water and some building materials that contain very small amounts of uranium, such as concrete, bricks, tiles and Gyproc. When radon is released outdoors it is diluted by the fresh air and is not a concern. However, in enclosed spaces like houses or other buildings it can sometimes accumulate to high levels.
The main health concern associated with exposure to high levels of radon is the risk of developing lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. The risk from radon exposure is long-term and depends on the level of radon, how long a person is exposed and their smoking habits. If you are a smoker and are exposed to radon, your risk of developing lung cancer increases.
However, employers must take reasonable precautions to ensure their employees’ health and safety. As with the Province of New Brunswick’s practice for workplaces operated by the province (schools, health care facilities, etc.), WorkSafeNB recommends that employers and building owners follow Health Canada’s guidelines if radon is suspected at the workplace. Such risk identification could be a requirement of the workplace’s written health and safety program.
The only way for an employer to know if radon is a problem at the workplace is to test for it. A guide is available for assessing radon in residential public buildings, such as hospitals, schools and long-term care facilities. This guide can be used for measuring radon in other types of workplaces.
There are two options for testing for radon: one is to purchase a do-it-yourself radon test kit and the other is to hire a radon measurement professional. To perform the test yourself, you can buy radon detectors over the phone, from the Internet, or from some home improvement retailers. The radon test kits include instructions on how to set up the test and send it back to a lab for analysis once the testing period is over. In some cases, the lab analysis fees and postage are additional.
The Canadian National Radon proficiency program (C-NRPP) provides a list of certified service providers who can help reduce the level of radon in your home or workplace.
For steps on how to reduce radon in your building, see the Health Canada “Radon - Reduction Guide for Canadians” document
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
A.N.B. 1983, c. O-0.2
DUTIES OF EMPLOYERS, OWNERS, CONTRACTORS, SUB-CONTRACTORS, EMPLOYEES AND SUPPLIERS
8.1 (1) Every employer with 20 or more employees regularly employed in the Province shall establish a written health and safety program, in consultation with the committee or the health and safety representative, that includes provisions with respect to the following matters:
(a) the training and supervision of the employees in matters necessary to their health and safety;
(b) the preparation of written work procedures and codes of practice for the implementation of health and safety work practices, required by this Act, the regulations or by any order made in accordance with this Act;
(c) the identification of the types of work for which the work procedures are required at the places of employment of the employer;
(d) a hazard identification system that includes
(i) evaluation of the place of employment to identify potential hazards,
(ii) procedures and schedules for inspections, and
(iii) procedures for ensuring the reporting of hazards, prompt follow-up and control of the hazards;
(e) a system for the prompt investigation of hazardous occurrences to determine their causes and the actions needed to prevent recurrences;
(f) a record management system that includes reports of employee training, accident statistics, work procedures and health and safety inspections, maintenance, follow-up and investigations; and
(g) monitoring the implementation and effectiveness of the program.
(2) The employer shall review its health and safety program at least once each year, in consultation with the committee or the health and safety representative, and shall update the program as required.
(3) The employer shall make a copy of the program and all records available
(a) to the committee or the health and safety representative, and
(b) on request, to an employee at the place of employment or the Commission.
[S.N.B. 2013, c. 15, s. 3]
Section 9 Duties of employer
9. (1) Every employer shall
(a) take every reasonable precaution to ensure the health and safety of his employees;
(b) comply with this Act, the regulations and any order made in accordance with this Act or the regulations; and
(c) ensure that his employees comply with this Act, the regulations and any order made in accordance with this Act or the regulations.
(2) Without limiting the generality of the duties under subsection (1), every employer shall
(a) ensure that the necessary systems of work, tools, equipment, machines, devices and materials are maintained in good condition and are of minimum risk to health and safety when used as directed by the supplier or in accordance with the directions supplied by the supplier;
(a.1) ensure that the place of employment is inspected at least once a month to identify any risks to the health and safety of his employees;
(b) acquaint an employee with any hazard in connection with the use, handling, storage, disposal and transport of any tool, equipment, machine, device or biological, chemical or physical agent;
(c) provide the information that is necessary to ensure an employee’s health and safety;
(c.1) provide the instruction that is necessary to ensure an employee’s health and safety;
(c.2) provide the training that is necessary to ensure an employee’s health and safety;
(c.3) provide the supervision that is necessary to ensure an employee’s health and safety;
(d) provide and maintain in good condition such protective equipment as is required by regulation and ensure that such equipment is used by an employee in the course of work;
(e) co-operate with a committee, where such a committee has been established, a health and safety representative, where such a representative has been elected or designated, and with any person responsible for the enforcement of this Act and the regulations.
(3) An employer shall develop a program for the inspection referred to in paragraph (2)(a.1) with the joint health and safety committee, if any, or the health and safety representative, if any, and shall share the results of each inspection with the committee or the health and safety representative.
[S.N.B. 2001, c. 35, s. 3; 2007, c. 12, s. 2; 2013, c. 15, s. 4]
Underground Mine Regulation - Occupational Health and Safety Act
N.B. Reg. 96-105
Part IV AIR QUALITY
Section 62 Testing for ionizing radiation
62. (1) In this section
"time weighted average concentration" means the concentration of radon or thoron over a normal eight hour workday and forty hour work week to which nearly all employees may be repeatedly exposed without adverse effect;
"WL" means the concentration of radon (Rn 222) or thoron (Rn 220) disintegration products in one cubic metre of air that will release 2.08 x 10-5 joules of alpha particle energy during their radioactive decay to lead - 210 (radium D) or lead - 208 (thorium D) respectively;
"WLM" means the exposure resulting from the inhalation of air containing one WL of radon or thoron daughters for one WM where one WM equals one hundred and seventy working hours.
(2) An employer shall ensure that the concentration of radon or thoron disintegration products is monitored by properly calibrated instruments in accordance with the following schedule:
(a) where concentrations are less than 0.04 WL, in accordance with the frequency established in the air monitoring plan;
(b) where concentrations are in the range of 0.04 WL to 0.20 WL, inclusive, at least quarterly; and
(c) where concentrations are over 0.20 WL, at least monthly.
(3) If radon or thoron daughter levels at any time exceed 0.30 WL, an employer shall take immediate steps to reduce the level of concentration by engineering controls and shall ensure that precautions are taken to protect the health and safety of employees if the engineering controls are ineffective.
(4) An employer shall ensure that the exposures of employees to radon or thoron are maintained as low as reasonably achievable by appropriate engineering controls and that individual exposures do not exceed 4.8 WLM per year and the time weighted average concentration does not exceed 0.40 WL.
(5) An employer shall
(a) appoint a person to measure and record the exposure of each employee exposed to radon or thoron,
(b) report these exposures in Form 2 to the Commission at the intervals required by the Commission, and
(c) post a copy of the report in a conspicuous place at the place of employment.
(6) An employer shall ensure that a person appointed under paragraph (5)(a) is competent.
(7) Where exposures are less than 0.10 WLM per quarter year, a report under subsection (5) is not required.