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.