ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) is just one of the dozens of acronyms you're likely to hear working in the radiology field. Unfortunately, as with any other acronym that gets regular usage, the more you hear it and use it, the less likely you become to really consider its full implications.
Does everyone on your team really know and use best practice to keep radiation exposure as low as reasonably achievable? When was the last time they had a refresher on those practices? Do you have any way of knowing or documenting that?
If your answers to the previous questions included anything like, "no" or, "I'm not sure", the following are three big reasons why you need to consider a radiation safety training program at your facility.
Patient and Worker Safety
The first, and most obvious, reason your facility needs to have at least a basic radiation safety training program in place, is that it helps create a safe place to receive and provide care. There are certainly elements of implementing radiation safety that can be classified as common sense, but it is exactly this "common sense" perception (and day-to-day repetition) that make some of these elements so easy to cut corners on. A set training program reinforces these concepts and normalizes the level of understanding among members of an imaging team.
Training your staff in radiation safety basics can also help your facility stay in compliance with federal regulations from agencies like OSHA (Employer Responsibilities), the NRC (NRC 39.61 Subpart D), and the DOE (63 FR 59682, Nov. 4, 1998). While the language of each policy differs, they all make the same point: everyone who works with or near radiation-emitting equipment needs to be trained in radiation safety.
Aside from federal regulations, there are state requirements that must be met. Here's an example of policy from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in Block Imaging's home state of Michigan:
A radiation protection supervisor shall be appointed to be responsible for radiation safety. This individual shall... provide instruction in safety practices for all individuals working with the x-ray equipment and those working in the immediate area or periodically review the safety instruction provided for such individuals (R 325.5484).
Regulations may be different where you work, but there's a strong chance your state has some expectations you'll need to keep up on in regard to radiation safety training.
There are also radiation safety requirements that need to be met in order for your facility to qualify for accreditation. Take a look at this excerpt from the ACR Position Statement on Quality Control and Improvement, Safety, Infection Control, and Patient Education for an example:
Each imaging facility should have documented policies and procedures for monitoring and evaluating the effective management, safety, and operation of equipment involved in the use of ionizing radiation for therapy, diagnosis and imaging. The quality control program should be designed to minimize patient, personnel, and public radiation risks...
If your facility intends to receive or maintain accreditation, providing your staff with a radiation safety training course is an easily documentable and quantifiable way of demonstrating the value and effectiveness of your safety policy.
Whether your team is made up of radiology veterans, new entrants to the field, or a little of both, there are compelling personal and professional reasons to put clear radiation exposure policies in place at your imaging facility. Being able to verify, document, and demonstrate a firm understanding of radiation safety procedures across your organization will keep your team healthy and your imaging practice in good standing with the powers that be.
If you aren't sure how to start building your training policies, take a look at our online radiation safety course. We're ready to empower you with tools that make it simple to keep your team's radiation exposure ALARA.