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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Fukushima nuclear accidents: Information resources

    18 March 2011

    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. 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.

  5. Radiation protection of workers

    11 April 2011

    SafeWork Information Note Series, Information Note No. 1