Radiation Protection

Radiation describes any process in which energy emitted by one body travels through a medium or through space, ultimately to be absorbed by another body. Radiation can be classified according to the effects it produces on matter, into ionizing and non-ionizing radiations. Ionizing radiation includes cosmic rays, X rays and the radiation from radioactive materials. Non-ionizing radiation includes radiant heat, radio waves, microwaves, terahertz radiation, infrared light, visible light, and ultraviolet light.

The purpose of radiation protection is to provide an appropriate level of protection for humans without unduly limiting the beneficial actions giving rise to radiation exposure. Radiation protection is to prevent the occurrence of harmful deterministic effects and to reduce the probability of occurrence of stochastic effects (e.g. cancer and hereditary effects).

Radiation protection is part of the fields of the ILO‘s action on the protection of workers against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment as mandated by the Organization’s constitution. The ILO's programme of action on occupational safety and health uses, in a coordinated manner, the various means of action available to the ILO to give governments, employers' and workers' organizations the necessary help in drawing up and implementing programmes for the improvement of working conditions and environment. These means include international standards in the form of conventions and recommendations, codes of practice, dissemination of information and technical cooperation.

The ILO’s activities on radiation protection cover the protection of workers against both ionizing and non-ionizing radiations. The ILO has developed over the years a number of policy instruments on radiation protection which include Conventions and recommendations (e,g. Convention No. 115 and Recommendation No. 114), codes of practice, practical guides and reports. Some of these instruments and publications have been developed and promoted in collaboration with other international organizations such as IAEA and WHO and with international professional bodies such as IRPA, ICRP and ICNIRP.

The ILO encourages and promotes the active involvement of employers' and workers' organizations in the development of international standards on occupational radiation protection and in the implementation of the occupational radiation standards at both the national and enterprise levels.

Further information

  1. International Conference

    Third international conference on Occupational Radiation Protection: Strengthening Radiation Protection of Workers – Twenty Year of Progress and the Way Forward

    05-09 September 2022

    The conference is organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), hosted by the Government of Switzerland and co-sponsored by the ILO and in cooperation with other international organizations.

  2. A report by the IAEA Director General and five technical volumes

    The Fukushima Daiichi Accident


    This publication is the result of an extensive international collaborative effort involving five working groups with about 180 experts from 42 States with and without nuclear power programmes and several international bodies. It provides a description of the accident and its causes, evolution and consequences, based on the evaluation of data and information from a large number of sources available at the time of writing. The Fukushima Daiichi Accident will be of use to national authorities, international organizations, nuclear regulatory bodies, nuclear power plant operating organizations, designers of nuclear facilities and other experts in matters relating to nuclear power, as well as the wider public.

    Contents: Report by the Director General; Technical Volume 1/5, Description and Context of the Accident; Technical Volume 2/5, Safety Assessment; Technical Volume 3/5, Emergency Preparedness and Response; Technical Volume 4/5, Radiological Consequences; Technical Volume 5/5, Post-accident Recovery; Annexes.

    The Report by the Director General is also available separately in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish and Japanese. The set contains six printed parts and five supplementary CD-ROMs.

  3. Fukushima nuclear accidents: Information resources

    18 September 2015

    Following a major 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami which struck north-eastern Japan on 11 March 2011, the Fukushima nuclear power plants have experienced equipment failures which caused a series of explosions, fires, injuries to the plant workers and emergency responders and radiation releases.

  4. Publication

    Radiation protection and safety of radiation sources: International basic safety standards

    Interim edition, 3 November 2011

    The objective of this publication is to establish requirements for the protection of people and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation and for the safety of radiation sources.

  5. Event

    16th Meeting of the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiation Safety

    12 May 2011 to 13 May 2011 - ILO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland

    The IACRS meeting is a regular working mechanism through which member organizations coordinate their work on radiation protection. The Secretariat of the IACRS used to be ensured by participating organizations on a rotating basis.

  6. Radiation safety and protection of workers in nuclear and radiological emergency operations

    14 April 2011

    Workers working in response to the emergency at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi's nuclear plant are exposed to traditional OSH risks including explosion and fire as well as to radiation. The International Basic Safety Standards for Protection against Ionizing Radiation and for the Safety of Radiation Sources (BSS) provide a worldwide basis for harmonized radiation protection standards that complement the ILO Convention No. 115 and for the protection of workers engaged in nuclear and radiological emergency operation.

  7. Radiation protection of workers

    11 April 2011

    SafeWork Information Note Series, Information Note No. 1