Office for Nuclear Regulation

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New guidance on airfed suits: Reducing the risks to nuclear industry workers

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Reducing the risks to workers using airfed suits in decommissioning UK nuclear facilities is behind new guidance published by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

ONR, the UK nuclear safety regulator, has worked with the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) and other stakeholders to produce guidance on the physiological and ergonomic challenges affecting the use of airfed suits.

This personal protective equipment (PPE) protects a worker's skin and the respiratory system from radioactive particulate contamination and is widely used during decommissioning of nuclear facilities. Only limited guidance on its safe use was available until now.

ONR and HSL ran a research project between 2008 and 2011, involving a number of nuclear industry licensees and PPE manufacturers. This included observing workers using the suits in situ, procedure reviews, discussion groups and surveys. Laboratory trials were undertaken at HSL's state-of-the-art thermal chamber in Buxton, Derbyshire.

David Simister, a superintending inspector at ONR and one of the authors of the guidance, said: "The guidance covers all stages of airfed suit use, from planning, selection and training through to reviewing and improving. Our aim is simple, to reduce the risk to workers."