Sex, beers, barbies - now that we have your attention… Does your practice hold valid compliance certification for each x-ray unit? Do you know when they are due for recertification? This topic may not be sexy, but it is a vital component of radiation safety, and part of your legal requirements. Read on to find out more about your obligations as an owner of radiographic equipment, in NSW.
X-ray compliance testing in NSW
Each state and territory in Australia have their own radiation safety standards and regulations. The governing body in New South Wales is the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Its legislation encompasses the Radiation Control Act 1990 which states that all ionising radiation apparatuses must be assessed for compliance by a Consulting Radiation Expert (CRE). The testing procedures are outlined in EPA Radiation Standard 6: Compliance requirements for ionising radiation apparatus used in diagnostic imaging - Part 3: Dentistry.
Why do we need x-ray compliance testing?
X-ray technology has improved significantly over the years to optimize image quality and minimize the ionising radiation dose. However, to steal a quote from Radiation Standard 6, “although the effective dose from such procedures is low, the frequency of examinations is high enough to warrant monitoring of the doses delivered.”
Regular compliance testing, paired with a solid Quality Assurance program (as specified by the equipment manufacturer), ensures that your patients, staff, and the public are not at risk of being overexposed to the harmful effects of ionising radiation.
So, when do my x-ray units require compliance testing and certification?
After device installation before use in practice
This ensures your new unit is functioning correctly, is not damaged, adheres to the manufacturer specifications, and is safe to use.
Every 5 years after installation
Over time, x-ray equipment can deteriorate, be inadvertently damaged, or develop internal faults from extensive usage. These factors can cause inconsistencies in the radiation output, produce higher leakage levels, or create other potential threats. Having your equipment inspected periodically ensures that your patients and bystanders don't receive an unnecessary radiation dose.
It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure the equipment’s certification doesn’t lapse. The renewal dates can be found on the current compliance certificate. If you’re lucky, your CRE has also left a sticker stating the re-testing date, on the x-ray unit.
After a tubehead replacement
The tubehead is the main component of your apparatus and produces the radiation, i.e. the x-rays that are used for imaging. Essentially, it is like getting a new x-ray unit and as such, it is mandatory to have it compliance tested to ensure the safety of the unit before it’s used in your practice again.
After a relocation
Ever moved house without any collateral damage? Whether it's your big toe or your partner’s favourite vase - often something gets broken along the way. Your x-ray equipment is exposed to a similar risk when you relocate it. Normally things go smoothly, however, there is a risk that it gets damaged. To ensure it is still safe to use, you are required to have it re-tested after the relocation, before it is used on patients again.
Certificate of Compliance
After a successful assessment, the CRE issues a Certificate of Compliance, verifying that the tested apparatus met the requirements for compliance. It is valid for 5 years. You’ll also receive a technical report outlining all test results and your online portal will be updated. These records must be kept as part of your Quality Assurance program and presented, in the event of an audit.
If you have any questions about the compliance testing process, or would like to book your x-ray units in for their certification, contact our team at Gamma Tech today.
This article was first published in Australasian Dentist, Mar-Apr 2023.